New Group One race

Following an extensive review of the European sprinting programme, a new Group One six furlong race, the Commonwealth Cup, has been added to the Royal Ascot programme this year.

What becomes the eighth Group One race at Royal Ascot, open to three-year-old colts, geldings and fillies, will be run for £375,000 on the Friday card, replacing the Buckingham Palace Stakes – it is felt that six race cards preserve quality and fit best at Royal Ascot.

The Wolferton Stakes has been moved from Friday to Saturday with the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap transferred the other way, to ensure a competitive handicap is run as the fifth race on each day of Royal Ascot.

Nick Smith, Head of Communications and International Racing at Ascot, said:

“Many discussions took place with the British Horseracing Authority and European Pattern Committee to address the decline in quality of European sprinters.

“As a result, we are very pleased to be able to stage what we hope will now become a significant new option for three-year-old sprinters at Royal Ascot before they go on to compete against their elders in the Darley July Cup and beyond.

“As part of the overall programme and to deliver the necessary end of season championship race in Europe at six furlongs, the QIPCO British Champions Sprint in October has been promoted to Group One. This brings the number of top level races run at Ascot annually to 13.

“In order to maximise the field for the new Royal Ascot sprint, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is closed to three-year-olds going forward. Importantly for us, this won’t have significant adverse effect on our overseas promotion of this race as southern hemisphere three-year-olds are counted as four-year-olds in the northern hemisphere. Equally, the sprinters we attract from Hong Kong, Japan, America and such like have almost always been older horses.

“The King’s Stand Stakes remains open to three-year-olds as this is quite a different test to the stiff six furlongs at Ascot and all parties felt that three-year-olds should still have this option.

“Longer term, we are looking to attract horses that have run in championship two-year-old races in Australia like the Blue Diamond and the Golden Slipper to the Commonwealth Cup, as they are counted as three-year-olds in the northern hemisphere at Royal Ascot.

“We think the Commonwealth Cup has significant potential and were delighted, in year one of the new venture, to receive two entries for Australian two-year-olds, under the care of Gai Waterhouse and John O’Shea. Wesley Ward, for the USA, entered three northern hemisphere three-year-olds.”

Royal Ascot prize money increases this year to £5,585,000 from £5,310,000 and a full running order is reproduced on the following page – all 30 races are live on Channel 4 and Racing UK.