Ascot has made no secret of its desire for the Coventry Stakes to become the first European Group 1 race for two-year-old horses each season. Personally, I think it comes too early in the season, because it regularly attracts horses that have had just one run, and may or may not have won a maiden. There’s too high a risk that the race would not consistently reach the end of season ratings for the first four home to justify Group 1 status. As things stand, England’s first two year Group 1 race is the Nunthorpe, run at York in August, and that’s fine by me.
Whilst an upgrade for the Coventry is top of the thinking, the course is likely to press for a Group 1 Hardwicke at the Royal meeting, and earlier this week said it would add the Summer Mile to its list. Spokesman Nick Smith explained, “The Summer Mile now looks like a quasi Group 1 race. Our priority is to get next year’s Coventry Stakes promoted to Group 1 status, but we will probably put in an application for the Hardwicke, and, assuming the Summer Mile’s ratings are also what they need to be (115) we’ll put in an application for that too.”
Would this unbalance the shape of Pattern racing in England? Not seriously, if at all. There are currently 44 Group 2 races and 70 Group 3 each season. If all three bids were successful, which seems unlikely, it would increase Group 1s to 36, and reduce Group 2s to 41. There would still be fewer of the highest class races than those just behind, and that’s as it should be.
What would be interesting, if the Summer Mile were to be upgraded, would be the impact on the structure of the racing calendar. We’re thinking here about last Saturday and the debate that has sprung up as to whether there is too much top quality racing on that particular day. Remember that as well as Ascot’s competitive card, there was the July Cup at Newmarket and the John Smith’s Cup (Magnet Cup to old stagers like me) at York. Smith said that Ascot might bring forward the Summer Mile to Friday, as Channel 4 are committed to coverage of the two other meetings.
Wouldn’t this be the ideal opportunity to move one of those three meetings on by a week and spread the quality a little more evenly?