Changes in English Pattern Races for Fillies and Mares

The program of Pattern races for fillies and mares in Britain in 2004 will see a new group I race, with Newmarket's Falmouth Stakes, won by the likes of Proudwings, Sonic Lady, and Al Bahathri, upgraded from group II status.

The Lancashire Oaks at Haydock and the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster, often referred to as the fillies' St Leger, are both being elevated from group III to group II.

A new group II race for fillies and mares aged four and up will also be created at Royal Ascot. As yet unnamed, the contest will be over a mile and offer an easier alternative to the group I Queen Anne Stakes run over the same distance.

Other changes include the upgrading of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom, Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket, and Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood to group III status.

The changes are a result of the European Pattern Committee's decision to widen the opportunities available to fillies in Europe to try and ensure that less are sold and exported abroad or retired at the end of 3-year-old careers.

Ruth Quinn, racing director at the British Horseracing Board, declared: " I am delighted to be able to announce these considerable improvements to the race program for fillies and mares. We want to offer every encouragement to fillies to extend their racing careers in Britain.

"It is already encouraging to see some of the best fillies from the current season remaining in training, and we will look to achieve further enhancements in 2005 for the benefit of British racing."