December 4, 2009

Making the Grade

The American Graded Stakes Committee announced their decisions for 2010. Rather than putting many of you to sleep by listing stakes that were upgraded and downgraded, let’s liven things up a bit with a little Zipse perspective on the graded stakes list. Which tracks were the winners? Which tracks were the losers?

A - Churchill Downs - A big day for the folks under the twin spires as their major Fall handicap race, the Clark Handicap finally received the Grade 1 status it has deserved. Two other stakes were upgraded, while only one was downgraded.

A - Oaklawn Park - Not much movement for the stakes run in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but what did change was big news. The Arkansas Derby moved into the elite of Derby preps with its overdue upgrading to Grade 1.

A - Sunland Park - The New Mexico track now has even more reason to attract top horses to its rich Sunland Derby as it is now a graded stakes for those horses hoping to qualify for the Kentucky Derby’s requirement for graded stakes earnings.

B+ - Prairie Meadows - The Iowa track gained a higher level of respect for its big Summer race for three-year-olds as the Iowa Derby was upgraded to Grade 3 status.

B+ - Monmouth - A good day for the Jersey Shore oval as they only had one stakes race affected with the upgrading of the Monmouth Stakes to a Grade 3 level.

B+ - Fair Grounds - The resurgence for the New Orleans oval continues as they had no races lowered and saw their Risen Star stakes upgraded to a Grade 2.

B - Saratoga - Lost one grade 1 and gained another. A wash for America’s best race meet helps keep them atop the racing world.

B- - Del Mar - The beautiful racetrack where the turf meets the surf added a graded stakes to its Summer card but lost a Grade 1 with the devaluing of the John C. Mabee for turf fillies.

C - Belmont - One of Americas most important race places had only one race changed yesterday as the Tom Fool was dropped from a Grade 2 to a Grade 3.

C - Santa Anita - The home of the last two previous Breeders’ Cups, had two races dropped, including the Santa Maria losing Grade 1 status, while they had only one of their races raised in grading.

C- - Thistledown - The Ohio Derby, which was a struggle to finance this year and Ohio’s most important race, was dropped from Grade 2 to Grade 3.

C- - Chicago Racing - Arlington Park maintained the status quo, but Hawthorne was disappointed as the Illinois Derby, for some reason, was downgraded form Grade 2 to Grade 3 status.

D - Calder Race Course - The South Florida oval did not have a good day as three of their turf races were lowered. I wonder what they are thinking about the return of Hialeah.

D - Hollywood Park - As the track fights to keep its house open, their races went 0 for 4 at the hands of the committee. Four stakes were lowered, with no upgrading which was the worst record for any single racetrack.

D - Maryland Racing - The beleaguered state of Maryland racing, unfortunately, took another hit yesterday as the DeFrancis Dash lost its Grade 1 status leaving Maryland with only two remaining Grade 1 stakes. Pimlico and Laurel each had one additional stake downgraded.

D - Aqueduct - Winter racing in New York was dealt a cold blow as the Big A had three stakes lowered including Seattle Slew’s final race, the in-limbo Stuyvesant Handicap, while none of their stakes were upgraded.


Celeste said...

It was disappointing to me that Lone Star Park's Dallas Turf Cup lost it's Graded status. However, the purses here have gone down considerably, so what do I know?

Mike M said...

Brian, loving your site so far. Informative stuff, and fun to read! Thanks for everything.

Susan said...

Pimlico doesn't even deserve a grade. I thought it was falling down the last time I was there.
Monmouth...ok..I'll take that B plus.
I still like Delaware..but I worked there..sentimentality, I guess.

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks Mike!

Remember Susan, I am only grading the tracks on how well they did with the Graded Stakes Committee. I love Delaware Park too!

joani said...

Shoot! There I was, reading all about the announcements this morning when what I should have done was open "Zipse" first and saved valuable time. Thanks, Brian, for putting this in a nutshell. I've learned my lesson. #1 - Zipse At The Track!

Anonymous said...

I focus on the horses so I will add that I am glad that my two year old favorite Vineyard's Haven won the De Francis Dash while it was still a grade I.

Thank you Zipse for making a less tasty topic easy to read and painless.

Brian Zipse said...

I Always try to keep it fun Anonymous...Joani, I told you this weeks ago! LOL

LDP said...

Goon Analysis Brian,

I do no like the downgrade of the IL Derby at all, but they kinda sorta make up for it by upgrading the Clark and Arkansas Derby. Good choices there, that should have been made long before the present time.

Steve Munday said...

Good post and like the poll.

Glad to see both Clark H. and Arkansas Derby become G1s. This year's Clark was loaded and the Arkansas Derby has become a major stepping stone to the Derby. Love Keeneland's track, but the Blue Grass is no longer a legitimate prep for the Triple Crown since polytrack and probably not a legitimate G1 anymore.

And Susan: why no love for Pimlico? Yeah, it's in horrible shape and in one of the most dangerous neighborhood's imaginable but you can't say it doesn't have personality. I love that place.

Brian Zipse said...

Yes Steve, as much as I love Keeneland, the Blue Grass is no longer one of the key Derby preps because of the surface.

LDP, I was most disappointed with the downgrading of the Illinois Derby.