THE Australian Patterns Committee (APC) have knocked back an appeal by the Clarence River Jockey Club (CRJC) to have next year's Grafton Cup retain its Group Three status.

The decision is a real kick in the guts for the CRJC and NSW country racing. Following a review of Group and Listed races throughout Australia conducted last year, the Patterns Committee downgraded several feature races for the 2005-06 season, many of them staying events including the long-running showpiece of the July Racing Carnival, the $175,000 Grafton Cup (2400m).

The CRJC tabled a detailed letter to the APC asking for its decision to demote the Grafton Cup to Listed status be rescinded.

The APC met in Melbourne last week.

In a huge blow to Grafton's cause, it is understood, while the CRJC's appeal was discussed at the meeting, due to protocol, it was never officially tabled.

Racing NSW handicapper and APC member Paul Bloodworth, said official appeals need to be sanctioned by the State controlling body (Racing NSW) and not from an individual race club to be considered.

"Unfortunately Grafton was one of the casualties of the Committee's overall review, but the Grafton Cup had fallen short of the Group Three benchmark for 50 per cent of the prior five years," Bloodworth said.

"At this stage, while understandably disappointing for Grafton, there is no alteration to the races status.

"However, there is still opportunity for Grafton to appeal the decision, if backed by the State controlling body, when the Patterns Committee meet again next January."

Indications from the APC suggest however, it will be at least two years before any change is made.

CRJC chairman Bob Pavitt was bitterly disappointed at the APC's decision.

"It's very disappointing, absolutely when you take into account the premise they base their decision on. It's flawed," Pavitt said.

"The system is based on the races rating and they access it at the time of running from the first four placegetters.

"The fact you have horses from the race that go onto better wins, last year's winner Pacific Dancer won the Geelong Cup and was one of the top picks in the Melbourne Cup and third placed Zabeat won a

Group One Wellington Cup, means nothing.

"The Grafton Cup has always been a springboard to fame with a long list of horses going onto bigger and better wins, but that doesn't even count. Is that a good measure for racing?

"And when you take into account races like the Gimcrack and Breeders Plate (for two-year-old's) are Listed events with maidens with no form, it makes it harder to fathom."

Every horse in Group and Listed racing has an AustraliaNew Zealand Classification rating that is applied to the first four placegetters to determine the event's aver- age rating.

The current average benchmark for a Group Three event is 93.

It is understood the 2004 Grafton Cup was just above the benchmark and this year's event, won brilliantly by Stormhill, rated above the required figure.

It is now extremely doubtful the CRJC will be able to maintain the current prizemoney level for the 2006 Grafton Cup.

And if prizemoney drops the race will further diminish as will its attraction to trainers and punters, particularly those targeting the race as a stepping stone to the Caulfield and Melbourne cups.

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