Two new group I races will take place in Britain this year, the European Pattern Committee has announced.
Both will happen at Newmarket, the headquarters of British flat racing. The Falmouth Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes, in July and October respectively, move from group II to group I status and are run over a mile for fillies and mares aged three and up.
This is part of a program to enhance opportunities for fillies and mares in Europe. The program also includes a new group II race at Royal Ascot over a mile for fillies and mares, 4-year-old and upward .
A total of 18 upgrades have been made to British Pattern races, with half concerning fillies and mares.
The aim of the latter is to encourage high-class fillies to stay in training at the end of their 3-year-old careers rather than being retired for breeding purposes or exported to race in the United States.
Ruth Quinn, the British Horseracing Board racing director, commented: "The aim of encouraging fillies to extend their racing careers in Britain is a particularly worthy one. I am delighted that two additional group I races will take place in Britain this year, increasing the total to 31and reflecting the continued progress of British racing."
The other promotions include the two-mile Lonsdale Cup at the York in August, from group III to group II, while two of Royal Ascot's 2-year-old races -- the Coventry Stakes and Queen Mary Stakes -- move the same way, from group III too group II, as does the seven-furlong Park Stakes at Doncaster in September.
Greg Nichols, the BHB chief executive, added: "We have the most diverse Pattern in the world in Britain, providing the ultimate test for horses of all ages, over all distances. Fifty-two per cent of all European horses in the 2003 International Classifications were trained in Britain, and I look forward to the sport building on its pre-eminent position in Europe."
Across Europe over a mile, there is a new group II race for older fillies at the Curragh in Ireland, with the Ridgewood Pearl taking place in May, while France's Prix d'Astarte at Deauville in August gains group Istatus, as does the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, Ireland, in September.
Turning to the 10-furlong category, there are three extra opportunities at the group II level in France and Ireland and two with group I status – Ireland's Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in June, and Italy's Lydia Tesio at Rome in October.