Programming can make a horse
BRITISH three-year-old sprint sensation Harry Angel will head to Ascot next month to attempt an historic sprint treble and this will be vindication for the European Pattern Committee (EPC).
This Irish-bred colt’s success provides a current example of how important national race programming can be in the making of a horse.
The South African program lacks sprint opportunities for three-yearolds, although the Var Syndicate addressed this issue in the 2010/2011 season and the big sales races are also playing a role in filling this gap.
However, the SA programming committee could take heed of the Harry Angel success story.
The Godolphin-owned Harry Angel showed he is something special last Saturday when free-wheeling in front in the Group 1 Sprint Cup Stakes over six furlongs before kicking clear to win full of running by four lengths despite the ground officially being “heavy”.
Last month the Clive Cox-trained Dark Angel colt won the Group 1 Darley July Cup Stakes over six furlongs at Newmarket on good to firm ground.
Next month he will go for the Group 1 British Champions Sprint at Ascot and attempt to become the first horse to land this particular treble.
Three years ago in August 2014, the EPC sat down to address the lack of opportunities for high-class three-yearold sprinters and to improve the overall standard of Group sprint races in Europe.
They noted, “For horses performing at every distance other than sprinting, the European Pattern provides a threeyear-old only programme until midsummer, when the Classic generation is considered ready to take on the older horses.
The Committee believes it is no coincidence that when it comes to milers and middle distance horses, Europe can genuinely lay claim to having the best in the world, however, there is a definite lack of top class European three-yearold sprinters.”
The EPC firstly introduced a limited number of Pattern races restricted to three-year-olds in the first half of the European season, culminating in a new Group 1 race at Royal Ascot, and secondly, they sought to deliver a more balanced overall sprint programme, providing better opportunities and greater incentives to run high class sprinters in Europe.
This included the upgrade of a number of races, including the British Champions Sprint on QIPCO British Champions Day to Group 1, and the Flying Five on Irish Champions Weekend to Group 2.
Harry Angel has thus been able to build his confidence and could well be the best three-year-old sprinter seen in the U.K. and Ireland for some time.
The brilliant colt is able to go in any ground and this season has won on both firm and heavy ground.
As a two-year-old Harry Angel showed his class by winning the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes over six furlongs at Newbury in just his second start.
He was then rested until making his reappearance on May 3 at Ascot in the Pavilion Stakes over six furlongs, where he finished second, and on May 27 he won the Sandy Lane Stakes over six furlongs at Haydock.
Both of those races are limited to three-year-olds and both were identified in the European Pattern Committee meeting in 2014 as races which needed upgrading.
Hence the former race acquired Group 3 status in 2015 and the latter was upgraded from Listed to Group 2 status in 2015.
Harry Angel then took part in the new three-year-old Group 1 Royal Ascot event, the Commonwealth Cup over six furlongs.
The EPC introduced this in 2015 at the expense of the Buckingham Palace Stakes, a seven furlong handicap.
The Commonwealth Cup is the only Group 1 limited to three-year-olds in Great Britain in which geldings are allowed to compete and is the first age restricted Group 1 open to geldings in Europe.
Harry Angel was beaten 0,75 lengths by the Aiden O’Brien-trained Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup, but exacted revenge next time out in the July Cup.
In South Africa the forward thinking Pippa Mickelburgh of Avontuur Stud attempted to address the lack of opportunity for three-year-old sprinters by introducing the Need For Speed Sprint Series in the 2010/2011 season, sponsored by the Var syndicate.
The series included one race in each of the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN. Mickelburgh said at the time, “For nearly 20 years, South Africa was without a significant speed sire which slowly eroded the number of races catering for that category.
“We now sit with an opportunity in the racing calendar for sprint races for three-year-olds.
“This series hopes to fill that gap.” Avontuur’s brilliant stallion Var is just one of a number of top class speed stallions currently standing in South Africa.
Currently the chief target for a three-year-old sprinter in South Africa is the Non-Black Type $500,000 CTS 1200 run on Sun Met day. It thus clashes with the Grade 1 Betting World Cape Flying Championships and is also limited to horses sold at CTS Sales.
There is only one Graded sprint limited to three-year-olds in the country, the R250,000 Grade 3 Man O’ War Sprint over 1 100m, run at Turffontein in the first week of April.
The three three-year-old sprints introduced by the Var Syndicate remain NBT events for R150,000 each.
Besides those there is the Listed R150,000 Sophomore Sprint at Kenilworth in the second week of January, the R135,000 NBT WSB Sophomore 1000 at the Vaal in September, the R150,000 Listed Swallow Stakes for three-year-old fillies at Turffontein in January and the R120,000 NBT Ethekwini Sprint on Vodacom Durban July day.
It is plain to see there are not many confidence building opportunities for three-year-old sprinters in South Africa the like of which Harry Angel has benefitted from.