Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland and chairman of the European Pattern Committee, has warned promoters of new international races offering massive prize-money pots not to upset the equilibrium of existing events that are subject to strict quality control criteria.
Addressing the Asian Racing Conference in Cape Town on Wednesday, Kavanagh said: “New, high-value races need to complement and fit in with the long-established and successful international events, rather than compete with and challenge existing events, otherwise it will just lead to a dilution of quality, rather than enhancing the overall programme.
“Innovation is good and should be welcomed and encouraged, but it must be within a controlled environment, such as that run by the European and other Pattern Committees, and should be based on the strategic objective of improving the breed of horses or improving the race programme within a particular region.”
Kavanagh refuted the suggestion that the existing Pattern system stifled innovation, pointing to recent developments in the fillies’, sprinters’ and stayers’ programme in Europe, and support for end-of-season championships in Britain, France and Ireland.
“They were all introduced following detailed discussion and, importantly, unanimous agreement between the European Pattern countries,” he said. “And further afield, innovations such as the Dubai World Cup, the expanded Breeders’ Cup programme, the championship programme in Sydney and the upgraded Hong Kong international races programme have all been accommodated within the Pattern races of those regions.”
Turning to specific events such as the Everest in Australia and next week’s Saudi Cup, Kavanagh said: “Hopefully such innovations will be able to take their place in the world circuit, having first established their merits and sustainability.
“On the other hand, the concept of such as the Pegasus Stakes was always going to struggle to be sustainable, as its business model was based on transferring large sums of money from owners to one winning owner. For this reason, the European Pattern Committee is very much against high-value sweepstakes and favours the tried and tested methods of determining the best of the best.”
Kavanagh’s defence was in direct contrast to the approach from Peter V’Landys, chief executive of Racing New South Wales and inventor of the Everest, who said: “The Pattern breeds apathy; it’s like a tariff, whereas you should have free trade. The Pattern has got its place but it’s got to be more flexible and be brought into 2020, not 1960.”