Graded Stakes Committee Ups Grade I Purse Minimum

The American Graded Stakes Committee received industry support for its new drug testing protocol Friday and adopted a new rule that will force tracks to up the ante to keep the grade I status of some of its races.

Beginning in 2004, in order for a race to be a grade I it must carry a minimum purse of $250,000, which may include Breeders' Cup supplements but not state-bred incentives. A total of 19 grade I races this year fall below the threshold.

Santa Anita Park will have to pay an additional $350,000 in purses next year in order to keep the grade I status of seven of its races. The purses for the Ancient Title, La Brea, Las Virgenes, Malibu, San Carlos, Santa Maria, and Santa Monica would each need to raise $50,000 to be eligible.

The New York Racing Association must come up with $300,000 for six grade I races. The Belmont Futurity, Hopeful, King's Bishop, Matron, Prioress, and Spinaway all carry purses of $200,000 this year.

Other grade Is that do not meet the minimum are the Fountain of Youth and Gulfstream Park Handicap at Gulfstream Park; the Hollywood Futurity, Starlet, and Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park; and the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.

Additionally, the graded stakes committee, which is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, received industry support for the stricter drug testing procedure that will become a condition of grade eligibility next year. The Jockey Club, Association of Racing Commission Internationals, and Society of Thoroughbred Auctioneers all pledged support for the protocol.

"The Jockey Club heartily endorses the American Graded Stakes Committee in the area of aggressive and enhanced medication testing for America's premier Thoroughbred races," said Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman of the Jockey Club.

Laboratories will perform tests on approximately 140 parent drugs and their analytes under the new system.

"These statements show the broad base of support in the industry for this initiative," said Steve Duncker, who was re-elected chairman of the graded stakes committee. "We look to each of these organizations to help us implement this protocol and to plan for any future measures we will take in this area."