December 2, 2010

Making the Grade

Recently I have felt like a college student all over again. No, not keggers and dormitory life, I had been waiting for the grades to come in, and this time it wasn’t on Mrs. Kenny’s Chemistry final, but rather from The American Graded Stakes Committee. Today’s the day. They reviewed the unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to a total of 474 (slightly more that two-thirds) of them. This total is 13 less than the 487 that were graded in 2010. I like to take this information and scan the performances of individual tracks. Which tracks were the winners? Which tracks were the losers? On the day the grading is done, ZATT takes it one step farther and hands out more grades.

A - Charles Town - Big congratulations go out to the West Virginia oval for getting their first ever graded stakes race. The Charles Town Classic will be a grade 3 in 2011.

A - The Breeders’ Cup - The traveling championships that are the Breeders’ Cup saw two of its newer races raised, the Juvenile Turf moved up to a grade 1, and the Marathon became a grade 2, while no BC stakes was downgraded.

B+ - Tampa Bay Downs - The west coast Florida track continued to build momentum today with two upgrades and only one downgrade. Most notably, The Tampa Bay Derby will be grade 2 for the first time in 2011.

B+ - Parx Racing - A new name (again) for the Suburban Philadelphia oval was greeted with one more graded stakes next year, as the usually interesting Turf Monster moves to a grade 3.

B+ - Presque Isle Downs - The Presque Isle Downs Masters has quickly become a race of importance, and today the committee showed their approval by naming it a grade 2.

B - Saratoga - America‘s top race meet added one more grade 2 on top of its already loaded schedule with the upgrading of the With Anticipation for juvenile turfers.

B - Gulfstream Park - Faired much better than its Miami neighbor, Calder, with the movement of only one stakes race. The Marshua’s River will go from ungraded to grade 2 next year.

D - Hollywood Park - Hollywood has remained open, but that is about the only good news for the track besieged by small fields, as they had three races deemed not eligible for grading in 2011.

D - Lone Star Park - Took a hit today, as a signature race, The Lone Star Derby becomes an ungraded stakes next year.

F - Pimlico - If Maryland racing is on death row, today‘s news of three Pimlico stakes being downgraded, only served to move up the execution date.

F - Calder Race Course - The South Florida oval continues to lose quality horses to in-state competition, Tampa Bay Downs. For 2011, they saw three of their races, the Kenny Noe Jr., Memorial Day and Stage Door Betty Handicaps all lowered to ungraded status.


tencentcielo said...

From what I understand, you must run the race at least two out of the last three years to maintain the grading.

Since the Pimlico Special, Mass Cap, Carelton F Burke, Sport Page and the Hollywood Park stakes all have not been run in the last two years, they could not be graded.

Defrancis Dash had only been once in the last three years (2009), so it could not be graded either.

Brian Zipse said...

Right you are tencentcielo ... some of what was lost, as far as grading, had to happen because of the races not being able to be run lately. Which is an even worse situation than merely dropping a grade.

markinsac said...

California racing deserves to be lowered in status. The higher purses attract the better horses, that's no secret. Now California RAISES IT'S TAKEOUT in an effort to boost purses. Who pays for this raise? The bettors! At a time when your product is not in great demand, California raises it's prices. Brian, I would like to share my thoughts personally. I would be happy if you emailed me and discussed the California problem in detail. It's a state of confusion, and the leadership has let us all down. Hope to hear from you.

Brian Appleton said...

I'm so glad to see that they are giving the Breeders' Cup Marathon a higher grade. We need more long distance racing in America, as it stands there isn't as much respect/recognition for distance racing as there should be.

Love that the Charles Town Classic is getting a grade. They've been running excellent, competitive fields recently.

Brian Zipse said...

Mark, I can always be reached by any of my readers at

Brian, agreed. A big day for Charles Town, and while the BC Marathon has not been super yet, it is nice to see some more distance infused back into American racing.