There will be three new grade I stakes in the United States in 2008 after a review by the American Graded Stakes Committee, but for the time being, the three Breeders’ Cup World Championships races run for the first time in 2007 won’t have a grade.
The committee, which held a grading session Nov. 27 in Lexington, released the results Nov. 28. The committee reviewed 718 unrestricted U.S. stakes with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to 481, seven more than last year. In 2008, 67% of eligible races will be grade I, II, or III.
In all, 10 races were upgraded; three to grade I and seven to grade II. There will be 18 new grade III events in 2008. No races were downgraded from grade I to grade II. Meanwhile, three grade II events and three grade III events no longer are eligible for grading.
Breeders’ Cup officials earlier this year and again for the Nov. 27 meeting submitted letters asking the American Graded Stakes Committee to consider grade I status for the Filly & Mare Sprint, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile, all run for the first time this year. Breeders’ Cup chairman Bill Farish, who attended the grading session as a guest, asked the committee to table the request.
That doesn’t mean the races won’t be evaluated before the 2008 World Championships at Santa Anita Park. At its Dec. 7 meeting, the Breeders’ Cup board of directors may approve plans to add races for next year, one of which probably will be a $1-million sprint on the turf. Breeders' Cup could, like it did in 2007, submit a request early next year.
“It’s up to the Breeders’ Cup (whether to resubmit the request),” said Andy Schweigardt, director of industry relations and development for the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and secretary for the AGSC. “They asked that we not consider it (at the Nov. 27 meeting).”
Breeders' Cup officials had no immediate comment on the developments. The eight World Championships races that existed before this year were all assigned grade I status at the outset.
Two Keeneland stakes were upgraded to grade I status: the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes and the First Lady Stakes, both on the turf. Also upgraded to grade I was the Just a Game Stakes on the grass at Belmont Park.
Upgraded to grade II status are the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland, Indiana Oaks at Hoosier Park, Lake George Stakes at Saratoga, Sands Point Stakes at Belmont, Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita Park, and Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Downgraded from grade II to grade III in 2008 are the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita, Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park, and Nassau County Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Belmont.
The Belmont Breeders’ Cup Handicap and Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont and Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Saratoga were not eligible for grading in 2008.
The new grade III stakes for next year are the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes, Bryan Station Stakes, and Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland; Pilgrim Stakes and Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont; Southwest Stakes and Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn; Obeah Handicap and Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Delaware Park; Florida Oaks and Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs; La Habra Stakes and Tuzla Handicap at Santa Anita; Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs; Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds; Boyd Gaming Delta Princess Stakes at Delta Downs; Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park; and Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs.
Having two races receive grade III status was big news for Tampa Bay Downs, which has steadily improved its racing product in the last 10 years or so. The Florida track now will have four graded stakes. Previously, only the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) and Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) were graded at Tampa.
“This is the first time in the history of the track that both of our marquee races (the Florida Oaks and the Tampa Bay Derby, and both turf events for fillies and mares) have achieved grade III status, and we are all very pleased,” vice president and general manager Peter Berube said in a statement. “We have worked hard to improve the quality of our races, and this will be a significant step in attracting more Triple Crown-caliber horses and turf specialists.”
The five races downgraded from grade III to ungraded status for 2008 are the Arlington Classic Stakes at Arlington, Essex Handicap at Oaklawn, Aqueduct Handicap at Aqueduct, Bay Meadows Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows, and Bayou Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds.
The Valley Stream Stakes at Aqueduct and Astarita Stakes and Floral Park Handicap at Belmont were not eligible for grading in 2008.