Horse Racing

Graded Stakes Committee Cuts Number of Graded Stakes

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association announced Dec. 16 its listing of domestic graded and listed stakes races for 2024, with more races downgraded than upgraded. The announcement from TOBA comes after its annual grading session Dec. 14-15.

One race was upgraded from a grade 2 to a grade 1: the Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G1T) at Kentucky Downs. It will become the first grade 1 in the track’s history. Flush with revenue from historical horse racing gaming, Kentucky Downs has raised stakes purses in recent years to attract higher-quality horses that could lead to a grade 1 designation for one of its races.

Racetracks in Kentucky saw numerous upgrades.

Five races were downgraded from grade 1s to grade 2s: Carter Handicap (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack; Man o’ War Stakes (G2T) during the Belmont at the Big A meet; Beverly D. Stakes (G2T) at Colonial Downs; United Nations Stakes (G2T) at Monmouth Park; and Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

The committee reviewed 970 United States stakes with a purse of at least $75,000 and assigned graded status to 429, 11 fewer than were graded in 2023, and listed status to 213. Ten graded races were upgraded; nine new grade 2 races, and four new grade 3 races were identified. Fourteen new listed races and two new listed-restricted races were upgraded from non-listed black-type status.

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Thirty graded races were downgraded; besides the five grade 1s, 10 grade 2, and 15 grade 3 races were demoted.  Thirteen listed races were downgraded to non-listed black-type status.

The changes come amid declining foal crops in recent decades and a decrease in the number of races taking place.

Nine races were upgraded to grade 2 status for 2024: Intercontinental Stakes (G2T) at Belmont Park; Charles Town Oaks (G2) at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races; Locust Grove Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs; Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park; Valley View Stakes (G2T) at Keeneland; Music City Stakes (G2T) at Kentucky Downs; Fantasy Stakes (G2T) at Oaklawn Park; and Saratoga Oaks Invitational Stakes (G2T) and Troy Stakes (G2T) at Saratoga Race Course.

The Charles Town Oaks is currently the richest sprint race for 3-year-old fillies in North America with a purse of $750,000. The race sports a star-studded cast of recent runners, including a trio of grade winners from the Steve Asmussen stable in Pauline’s Pearl , Society , and Wicked Whisper 

The Robert Hilton Memorial, run on the undercard of Charles Town Classic and Oaks night, received a purse hike to $350,000 in 2023. It now has listed status.

“We are pleased the TOBA graded stakes committee recognized the consistent improvement in the quality of these races over the past several years and look forward to moving them to the next level,” said Charles Town’s director of racing operations, Charlie McIntosh. 

Ten races were downgraded from grade 2 to grade 3: Forty Niner Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct; Hill Prince Stakes (G3T) ,and Vosburgh Stakes (G3) at Belmont at the Big A; Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont at Big A; Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G3) at the Breeders’ Cup venue, which is Del Mar in 2024; Penn Mile Stakes (G3T) at Penn National; Californian Stakes (G3), Goldikova Stakes (G3T), and Royal Heroine Stakes (G3T) at Santa Anita Park; and Prioress Stakes at Saratoga.

Four races were upgraded to grade 3: Unbridled Sidney Stakes (G3T) at Churchill Downs, Giant’s Causeway Stakes (G3T), and Perryville Stakes (G3) at Keeneland; and Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park.

Fifteen races were downgraded from grade 3 to listed for 2024: Bay Shore Stakes and Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct; La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar; Golden Gate Handicap at Golden Gate Fields (not scheduled to run at the closing track); Gulfstream Park’s Turf Sprint Stakes, Smile Sprint Stakes, Sugar Swirl Stakes, and Swale Stakes; Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing; Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup at Pimlico Race Course; Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows; Remington Park Oaks at Remington Park; Desert Stormer Stakes and Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita; and Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga.

Below is a breakdown of all grade levels:

2024 Graded Stakes Number % Graded % Eligible Change From 2023
grade 1 93 21.7% -4
grade 2 137 31.9% +2
grade 3 199 46.4% -9
all graded 429 44.2%
listed- 199 20.5%
listed-restricted 14 1.5%
non-listed eligible 328 33.8%
graded, listed, NLE races 970

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.


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