Mark Mahan

Blue Grass, Wood Memorial Downgraded

American Graded Stakes Committee announces status of 2017 stakes.

In a dramatic reshaping of the graded status of Triple Crown prep races for 2017, the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association has downgraded the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack from grade I to grade II status.

The changes to the two key prep races on the road to the Triple Crown were the most eye-catching when the American Graded Stakes Committee Dec. 2 presented its listing of graded and listed stakes races for 2017. The listings followed the group's annual grading session conducted Nov. 30 in Lexington.

Besides the Wood Memorial and the Blue Grass, one other grade I race from 2016 was downgraded to grade II for 2017: the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park

One race was upgraded to grade I status for 2017: the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.

The committee reviewed 790 unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to 464 of them—the same as were graded in 2016—and listed status to 172 races. Five graded races were upgraded; eight new grade III races were named; 23 new listed races were upgraded from non-listed black-type status.  

Fourteen races which carried graded or listed status in 2016 are no longer eligible for grading.

Four races were upgraded to grade II status for 2017: the Knickerbocker Stakes and Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes at Belmont, Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, and Penn Mile Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. The Penn Mile, entering its fourth year in 2017, will be the first grade II ever contested at Penn National.

"We're incredibly proud of the job our entire team has done in elevating the Penn Mile into the upper echelon of 3-year-old turf races in the country," said Penn National director of racing Eric Johnston.  "We're once again looking forward to putting on a great show for the fans of our track when the Penn Mile is run as a grade II in 2017."

Ten races were downgraded from grade II to grade III in 2017: the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont, Smile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Indiana Derby and Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, Commonwealth Derby at Laurel Park, Los Alamitos Derby at Los Alamitos Race Course, Monmouth Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park, West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, and Resort, and Lake George Stakes and With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Eight races were upgraded to grade III status for 2017: the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes, Intercontinental Stakes and Wonder Again Stakes at Belmont, Lukas Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs, Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes and Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs, Desert Stormer II Stakes at Santa Anita Park, and Ohio Derby at JACK Thistledown Racino.

"The graded-stakes upgrades are another important step in the development of Kentucky Downs," said Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen. "It's gratifying to be recognized by the graded-stakes committee for our efforts to improve racing not only in Kentucky but North America.

"This really elevates the quality of our overall racing program. Obviously the graded stakes will attract better horses, but that synergy also will lead horses to run in our other stakes races and improve those. And it motivates stables located outside of the region shipping in for those stakes to add horses on the van or plane for our $130,000 maiden races and $145,000 allowance races."

Four races were downgraded from grade III to listed status for 2017: the Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington International Racecourse, Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream, and Boiling Springs Stakes and Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth.

Twenty-three races were upgraded to listed status for 2017: the Garland of Roses Stakes and Heavenly Prize Invitational Stakes at Aqueduct, Chelsey Flower Stakes, Elusive Quality Stakes, License Fee Stakes, Memories of Silver Stakes, Soaring Softly Stakes, Temperence Hill Invitational Stakes and Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont, Open Mind Stakes at Churchill, Sanibel Island H. and Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream, Dueling Grounds Derby and Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Kentucky Downs, Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel, American Beauty Stakes, Bachelor Stakes, and Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Astra Stakes, Mizdirection Stakes and Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita, Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga, and Zia Park Oaks at Zia Park.

Ten races were downgraded from listed to non-listed black-type status for 2017: the Sugar Maple Stakes and Wild and Wonderful Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town, Alcatraz Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs, Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes at Mountaineer, Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn, My Juliet Stakes and Jostle Stakes at Parx, Edward J. Debartolo Memorial Stakes at Remington Park, and M2 Technology La Senorita Stakes at Retama Park.

The Arlington Oaks, Arlington Sprint Stakes and Washington Park H. at Arlington; Sweet and Sassy Stakes at Delaware Park; Memorial Handicap at Gulfstream; Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne Race Course; Los Alamitos Mile Stakes at Los Alamitos; Mountaineer Mile Stakes at Mountaineer; Cornucopia Stakes and Auld Lang Syne Stakes at Parx; Inaugural Stakes and Windward Stakes at Presque Isle Downs; and American Beauty Stakes and Strub Stakes at Santa Anita were not eligible for grading in 2017.

2017 Graded Stakes Number % Graded %Eligible Change from 2016
Grade I 107 23.1%   -2
Grade II 128 27.6%    -5
Grade III 229 49.4%   +7
All Graded 464   58.7%  
Listed 172   21.8%  
Non-Listed Eligible 154   19.5%  
All Gr., L & NLE Races 790