01/20/2005 12:00AM

France to alter many top races

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The European Pattern Race Committee has formally approved radical changes to many of the most important Group 1 races run in France, according to a Thursday announcement by France-Galop, French racing's ruling body.

At its annual meeting last Friday in Dublin, the committee approved a proposal by France-Galop's president, Baron Edouard de Rothschild, to reduce the distance of the Prix du Jockey-Club, or French Derby, from 1 1/2 miles to 1 5/16 miles. It had been run at 1 1/2 miles since its inception in 1836.

Meanwhile, the Group 1 Prix Lupin, the premier prep for the French Derby, has been scrapped. The Group 1 Prix Jean Prat for 3-year-olds has been reduced in distance from 1 1/8 miles to one mile and had its value doubled to $520,000. The Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris has had its distance increased from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles, and the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud has been closed to 3-year-olds.