Three Stakes in Pennsylvania Get Grades Back

Races had lost grades because state commmission did not do extensive drug testing.

The American Graded Stakes Committee announced April 30 it has reached an agreement with the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission that will result in reinstatement of the grades to several stakes.

The 2009 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and Fitz Dixon Cotillion S. (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park Racetrack, and Presque Isle Downs Masters S. (gr. III) at Presque Isle Downs will be graded.

The races lost their grades 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.

The Pennsylvania Derby was won Sept. 7 by Gone Astray , a 3-year-old son of Dixie Union out of Illicit (by Mr. Prospector). Careless Jewel (by Tapit —Sweet and Careless, by Hennessy) won as the heavy favorite in the Oct. 3 Fitz Dixon Cotillion.The Presque Isle Downs Masters Sept. 12 was won by Informed Decision, who is by Monarchos out of the His Majesty mare Palanga.

The reinstatement also affects the second- and third-place finishers.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement with Pennsylvania that will permit the reinstatement of the grades to these races and we thank the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission for taking the administrative actions necessary to make this possible,” said Peter Willmott, chairman of the committee.

“The goal of the American Graded Stakes Committee’s drug testing protocol is to strengthen integrity standards in graded stakes races, a goal which is shared by the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission. To that end, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission recently announced a directive to implement standard operating procedures for random testing of alkalinizing agents at all Pennsylvania racetracks. Given Pennsylvania’s initiative and willingness to comply with the Committee’s standards, we did not want to see the racetracks and participating owners in these three races continue to be harmed. Therefore, we have agreed to reinstate the grades.”

“The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission is committed to the highest standards of fairness for racing and, through our testing and research laboratory, has internationally recognized expertise in the detection and confirmation of prohibited drugs in horses,” said Pennsylvania Racing Commission's acting executive secretary, Michael Dillon. “We appreciate TOBA’s willingness to work with the department to find common ground and applaud the decision to restore the grades to three great Pennsylvania races.”

The American Graded Stakes Committee is a part of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.