Good news for Matamata two-year-old feature
The Matamata Racing Club received some good news last week with confirmation that one of the feature events on its annual calendar has been upgraded.
Since 1979 the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes has been New Zealand’s highest rated race for two-year-old fillies, accorded a Group Two rating and a stake of $100,000. That race is the headline act at Matamata’s February Premier meeting, while the two-yearold males do battle in the Reid & Harrison Slipper which is now rated Group Three with a corresponding stake increase to $70,000.
The Slipper was first run in 1987 and in the years since has been won by some of the country’s best age-group performers. Star two-year-olds on the roll of honour roll include Keeninsky, Darci Brahma and Jokers Wild, the winners from 2004 to 2006, while the two most recent editions have been won by next start Group One winners Heroic Valour and Summer Passage.
The grading of all New Zealand black type races is overseen by the Pattern Committee, whose task it is to evaluate the full range from Group One to Listed. The Matamata Slipper has more than held its own in the latter category, but until recently the clash with the week earlier Gr. 3 Taranaki Classic stood in the way of an upgrade. That has been resolved in the 2017-18 dates schedule, with the Taranaki Classic now being run on the first Saturday in February, and it is anticipated that the three-week gap will enhance both races, as well as the J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.
Summer Passage, incidentally, kicked off his Melbourne spring campaign with an encouraging performance for trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott at Flemington on Saturday.
‘‘Weighing everything up, we have to be pleased with the run,’’ Lance said. ‘‘To see him go out and be competitive, then to finish right in behind them after his jockey had to take hold of him, we’ve got something to build on now.’’
The Reid & Harrison Slipper, won last season by Summer Passage, has been upgraded to Group Three.