11/28/2003 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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British defense finds no folly in upgrades

Alan Shuback's Nov. 9 column, "Upgrading weak British stakes is folly" confused two issues, the first being the upgrades of British Pattern races for 2003, and the second being the pan-European initiative designed to keep older fillies and mares in training in Europe.

With regard to the former, the column's sweeping dismissal of the 10 races upgraded in 2002 for 2003 by the remark that "none of them was worthy of the honor" is simply not supported by the facts, unless one wishes to argue that the criteria of the entire European Pattern, based as it is on the requirement for the first four in each race to achieve an average rating over a three-year period appropriate to the classification of that race, is unworthy.

Indeed, it is not clear which 10 upgrades were in question, given that there was one upgrade from Group 2 to Group 1, seven from Group 3 to Group 2 (including the Scottish Derby, which he holds in particularly low esteem), and 11 from listed to Group 3. Every one of these upgrades, however, met the required criteria, which, contrary to the impression given in the column, had not been altered in any way.

Indeed, these are the first stage of an attempt to improve the quality of the European Pattern, as at the same meeting agreement was reached on measures to downgrade races that persistently fail to meet the rating requirements.

A more modest program, providing significantly less reason to keep a filly racing in Europe, would be much more likely to fail than the program that the Pattern committee endorsed.

Given Mr. Shuback's apparent reluctance to accept the European rating's criteria as evidence of the quality of these races, he may not take much comfort from the fact that, for the 2003 renewals, all of the races upgraded to Group 1 and 2 have met the rating required by their new status, as have nine of the 11 Group 3's, of which one achieved the rating needed for a Group 1, and six achieved that required of a Group 2. I hope this will be sufficient to satisfy the Racing Form's more open-minded readers.

If the first issue raised was contentious within Europe, the second issue, the desire to retain older fillies in training in Europe by offering them much greater opportunities at all levels to compete against their own sex, achieved widespread support throughout Europe but has inevitably caused more concern at a transatlantic level.

It is certainly true that past results of a number of the races upgraded - but by no means all and certainly not just those run in Great Britain - would not normally justify their promotion, but this bold initiative has been undertaken on the basis that, should it fail to achieve the desired effect, then those races that do not attract the quality fields that their new classification demands will most certainly be downgraded.

It would indeed be folly to upgrade races that could not justify their elevation, but it is neither a folly that the British Horseracing Board's Flat Racing Advisory Panel believes has been made, nor one we would allow to continue should events prove us wrong.

Philip Freedman, Chairman
British Horseracing Board
Flat Racing Advisory Panel