Newmarket looking for a sponsor after committing to a £1 million Cesarewitch
Newmarket is looking for a sponsor to give its name to what in 2020 will become the £1 million Cesarewitch after Jockey Club Racecourses revealed on Thursday that British racing will soon boast two Flat handicaps offering a seven-figure purse.
While York was able to unveil Sky Bet as the new backer of the Ebor, Newmarket has yet to find a successor to Betfred, which last year ended their support of both the Knavesmire feature and Cesarewitch.
Although the two famous old handicaps will this year both be worth £500,000, the Ebor will reach the magic million mark in 2019, at which point the Cesarewitch will have been hiked up to £750,000, helped by an increase in the entry fees paid by owners to 1.25 per cent of prize-money.
York has kept its entry fee charge at the normal 0.5 per cent and also opted not to introduce a rating cap, unlike Newmarket, which will now limit the Cesarewitch to horses rated 110 or lower.
That has been done in an attempt to prevent a diminution in quality of autumn Pattern races, such as the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, held at Ascot seven days later.
Last year the highest-rated Cesarewitch runners raced off a BHA mark of 103.
The Racehorse Owners Association has given its backing to the change to normal entry fee limits and also welcomed other significant prize-money increases made by Newmarket, including for the July meeting's Bahrain Trophy, a Group 3 for three-year-old stayers that moves up by 50 per cent to £150,000, in line with an industry push to enhance the value of long-distance features.
In addition, the Juddmonte-backed Middle Park and Cheveley Park Stakes will each be run for £275,000, compared to £200,000 last year.
Newmarket prize-money boosts in 2018
Cesarewitch from £250,000 to £500,000
Juddmonte Cheveley Park from £200,000 to £275,000
Juddmonte Middle Park from £200,000 to £275,000
Bahrain Trophy from £100,000 to £150,000
Juddmonte Royal Lodge from £100,000 to £125,000
Amy Starkey, regional director of Jockey Club Racecourses's East Region, said: "We have worked hand-in-hand with the BHA to create this boost for the stayers’ programme and that includes gaining permission to increase entry stakes to Group 1 level on a temporary basis to support such an increase in race value.
"We are pleased to significantly increase our contribution to prize-money for the Cesarewitch in the process, as part of £1 million of prize-money increases for 2018 at Newmarket racecourses, and that increases further over time.
"The changes to the race conditions are approved by industry bodies from the BHA board to the sport’s Racing Group, which includes representatives of the ROA and National Trainers Federation, and we agreed to introduce a ratings cap to ensure Pattern races are well protected."
Starkey added: "In terms of sponsorship, we think this is now a really exciting prospect to speak to a wide range of brands about, and we will make an announcement on that front in due course."
Similarly upbeat, BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "The phased prize-money boost to the Cesarewitch announced today creates a further sizable uplift in the value of the stayers’ programme and provides another significant incentive to keep staying horses in training here in Britain."
That angle was also taken by Roger Charlton, who trained Withhold to land a major Cesarewitch gamble in October.
"I suspect that when Withhold won the Cesarewitch for me last autumn he did so three years too soon!" said Charlton.
"It's a great new initiative as it's very important breeders are encouraged to not only breed sprinters but look at the longer term, too, while owners are given the incentive to keep staying horses in training for longer instead of potentially selling them to continue their careers in Australia."
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