Calder Race Course will run its first grade I race in 2006, the Princess Rooney Handicap, one of four races upgraded to grade I status by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
During its annual meeting in Lexington Dec. 1, the committee also announced the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, and Oak Leaf Stakes during the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting will be run as grade I races next year.
With no downgrading of any current grade I races, there will be 104 grade I races run in the United States in 2006.
The Princess Rooney, for fillies, 3-years-old and up going six furlongs, was first graded in 1999 as a grade III, and became a grade II in 2002. The $500,000 guaranteed race was won this year by Madcap Escapade.
The Spinaway and Oak Leaf are both returning to grade I status: the Spinaway was a grade I from 1973 to 2003 and a grade II in 2004 and 2005; the Oak Leaf has been run as a grade II from 2002 to 2005.
The Clark Handicap was a grade III from 1973 to 1997, when it was moved to grade II status for the 1998 running.
The committee reviewed 734 unrestricted stakes races run in the U. S. with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to 475, an increase of eight from 2005. Besides the 104 grade I, there are 160 grade II, and 211 grade III races.
Seven races were upgraded to grade II status for 2006: the Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs, Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park, Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct, Jenny Wiley Stakes and Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland, and Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap at Saratoga.
Two races were downgraded from grade II to grade III in 2006: the Pan American Handicap and Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Twelve races were upgraded to grade III status for 2006: the Sham Stakes, Sir Beaufort Stakes, and Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita, Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds, Dallas Turf Cup Handicap at Lone Star Park, John B. Connally Breeders' Cup Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park, Ack Ack Handicap at Hollywood Park, Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap and Stage Door Betty Handicap at Calder Race Course, Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes at Turfway Park, Arlington Oaks at Arlington Park, and Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Three races were downgraded from grade III to ungraded status for 2006: the Flash Stakes at Belmont Park, Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, and Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park.
The Laurel Futurity at Laurel Park was not eligible for grading in 2006.