12/03/2010 4:04PM

Champions on the Inner, 2011 Graded stakes

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A guaranteed bar-bet winner: Name the only multiple Eclipse Award champion who ever raced on Aqueduct's inner dirt track, which opened for the winter yesterday. I'll give you 10 guesses. Spoiler at end of next paragraph.

The chart below shows that since the oft-reviled IDT opened 34 winters ago, at least a dozen Eclipse champions have raced on the winterized oval, most recently Smarty Jones, who won the first start of his 2004 champion 3-year-old season in the Count Fleet. But the lone multiple Eclipse winner or Hall of Famer among them is the last horse you might associate with six furlongs on the inner in January: Flatterer, who made the first of his 51 career starts on Jan. 16, 1982 on the inner, finishing finished 12th by 16 lengths under Mike Miceli at 76.80-to-1. Eleven months later, he ran ninth beaten 16 in his second and last start on the inner. Four months later he made his first start over jumps, and went on to be named the nation's champion steeplechaser four years running from 1983 through 1986.

 

(Races in bold face indicate appearances during a horse's Eclipse-winning season. Also, I said "at least" 12 champions because these were culled by hand from eyeballing Eclipse winners' pp's, and I can't swear I didn't miss a dot-inside-the-box start somewhere. Please feel free to bring any omissions to my attention.)

Plenty of other horses including recent G1 winners Jazil, I Want Revenge and Haynesfield, have raced on the IDT. Chime in with any others.

Relaxing appears to be the lone Eclipse winner who won two graded stakes on the inner. She won the G2 Firenze, the G2 Gallant Fox and the ungraded Assault -- the latter two against males -- in a 35-day period in 1980-81. Later that year she won the G2 Campbell against males, the G1 Delaware Handicap and G1 Ruffian against fillies, and ran third beaten just three-quarters of a length, behind John Henry and Peat Moss in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

You may also know the daughter of Buckpasser as the dam of Easy Goer.

 

--Speaking of graded stakes, here's an at-a-glance table of the upgrades and downgrades announced Wednesday for the 2011 Graded Stakes calendar:

 

[Update: The Graded Stakes Committee clarified on Friday that the Jan. 1, 2011 running of the Stage Door Betty will be a G3 since it is the rescheduled version of the 2010 raced, moved there from Dec. 18. If the race is carded again in 2011, it will be ungraded.]

In addition to the upgrades and downgrades, another five races were not eligible for 2011 grading because they are no longer run regularly: The Massachusetts H. at Suffolk Downs, Carleton F. Burke H. at Oak Tree, Sport Page H. at Belmont, and the Hollywood Turf Express H. and Hawthorne H. at Hollywood Park.

The overall decrease in graded stakes is appropriate given the smaller foal crops and reduced racing schedules ahead. The lone new Grade 1 is the BC Juvenile Turf, which has not increased in quality but arguably might attract more top European juveniles with a more prestigious grade. Since there was no similar upgrade of the BC Juvenile Turf Fillies -- most "paired" races carry the same grade -- it makes you wonder if that race is a permanent part of the BC program.