The Pennsylvania Derby (formerly gr. II) will lose its graded status for 2009 along with two other Pennsylvania races because the state racing commission didn’t follow a more extensive drug testing protocol.
When a race is graded, the American Graded Stakes Committee requires the state racing commission to perform more stringent analytical tests on samples collected from horses competing in that stakes.
Because the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission did not conduct this higher level of testing, the graded status was stripped from the Pennsylvania Derby, the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes (formerly gr. II), and the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (formerly gr. III).
The decision to remove the graded status of these races was made this week during a regular meeting of the American Graded Stakes Committee. The grades will be reinstated for 2010.
“This is unfortunate, but the purpose of the committee’s protocol is to ensure the grades, and the committee feels strongly the higher standard required in the protocol must be upheld,” said Andy Schweigardt, secretary for the committee.
The committee's action takes the graded status away from the winners and the graded-placed status away from the horses that finished second and third.
The Pennsylvania Derby was won Sept. 7 by Gone Astray , a 3-year-old son of Dixie Union, out of Illicit (by Mr. Prospector). This race at Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack had been the Phipps Stable homebred’s first graded stakes victory. Gone Astray won’t lose his status as a graded stakes winner, however, because he went on to win the Ohio Derby (gr. II) at Thistledown Oct. 3. Join in the Dance was second and has his status downgraded from grade II-placed to grade III-placed, since he finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). Third-placed finisher Kelly Leak has lost his graded-placed status.
Careless Jewel won as the heavy favorite in the Oct. 3 Fitz Dixon Cotillion. The daughter of Tapit , out of Sweet and Careless (by Hennessy), made her next start as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I), where she finished eighth. Careless Jewel also won’t lose her graded stakes status because she’d won the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga and the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) at Delaware Park during the summer. Donver Stable owns Careless Jewel. Bon Jovi Girl was second in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion but is still a grade I-placed runner because she finished third in the Gazelle Stakes. Key Lime Baby, who was third, is now only stakes-placed instead of graded stakes-placed.
The Presque Isle Downs Masters on Sept. 12 was won by Informed Decision, who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) as the second choice over heavily favored Ventura. The Monarchos filly, out of Palangana (by His Majesty), is owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable. Sweet Lorena finished second in the Presque Isle Downs Masters and is now stakes-placed instead of graded stakes-placed. Flashing, who finished third, was not harmed by the change since the multiple grade I winner already had won the Test Stakes and subsequently won the Gazelle Stakes.