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-year-old males do battle in the Reid & Harrison Slipper.
That race 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 NZ 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 dates impasse has been resolved in the 2017-18 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.
Further to the Reid & Harrison Slipper upgrade, the Matamata Racing Club’s new summer schedule of five racedays during December, January and February has allowed for additional two-year-old opportunities ahead of the club’s big day on February 24. With an emphasis on feature two-year-old racing elsewhere through early summer, Matamata has until now missed out on valuable lead-up races to its two late February features, but with the extra dates maiden two-year-old races have been scheduled for the Matamata meetings on Friday January 12 and Friday February 2.