THE Wellington Racing Club, in conjunction with RACE Inc and the Levin Racing Club, has agreed with the advice of the NZ Racing Pattern Committee to shift the Levin Classic from the first day of the January NZCIS Cup Carnival to Al Basti Equiworld Dubai NZ Oaks Day on March 19 next year.
And as a result, the Wellington Guineas will move from Oaks Day to January to the January 15 date. It’ll be a straight swap!
In recent times the Levin Classic has suffered in quality at the expense of the Karaka Million growth which is normally held a fortnight after. The lure of bigger prize money of $1m at Ellerslie often offsets the group one status of the Levin Classic which has been under threat to retain its group one level for some time. It’s a case of stake money overriding Group status.
According to the NZ Racing Pattern Committee the Levin Classic has a race rating of 109.5 which is below the 112-115 threshold.
History tells us that the race has flirted with the threshold in recent years and 109 was the number two years ago while it varied from 109 to 113 in three of the last five years.
The impact of Covid-19 affected the opportunity for horses to potentially improve their rating in the latter part last of the season. That said, the small field of 6 starters lacked depth outside the first 3 home and the race may be better placed in mid-March to remove its proximity to the $1m Karaka 3yo race. It would provide an autumn target for the numerous horses that do not target the Oaks or Derby.
Stats from recent years to support the theory that there is no downside to a shift.
Oaks Day looks a better fit for group one survival. The Wellington Guineas, at group 2, has easily surpassed its threshold figure (100) in the last five years and it has grown in strength. Two years ago, it scored the same number of points as the Levin Classic on 109.
It is therefore the firm belief that having the Levin Classic over 1600m on Oaks Day will give trainers the best alternative to their quality three-year-olds that may not be ready for the 2400m group one NZ Derby at Ellerslie on March 1 or the NZ Oaks on the same day.
It will also mean that those three-year-olds who had raced well in the Karaka Million will have sufficient time to freshen and focus on group one glory over the same distance in the autumn at Trentham.
We also expect the new look Levin Classic will prove a worthy rehearsal for the major three-year-old races over the Sydney autumn carnival.
For the record the NZ Pattern Committee, which follows the Asian Pattern Committee ground rules, uses the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings as its primary assessment tool.
Each race’s rating is determined by the average ranking of its first four placegetters. The criteria for a race to meet its threshold is based on the race rating in the season under review and the pattern rating of the previous three years.
The Levin Classic is steeped in great history and it’s vitally important it’s given every chance to build on the past results.
42 years ago, next March the race was introduced to the Levin racecourse and was won by the unbeaten champion three-year-old oh his time, Altitude, who was trained by Bill Ford at Matamata and ridden by Stephen Autridge. Altitude paved the way for some very memorable Levin Classic moments that were shared on the Levin and Otaki racetracks before Trentham was awarded the host venue rights 9 years ago.
The Levin Classic is a race that has also helped the shape the careers of giants of the turf like Bonecrusher, O’Reilly, Veandercross and Al Akbar, who is the dam sire of the wonder mare, Winx.