12/27/2010 5:22PM

Closing the Book on 2010's Grade 1's


Sunday's Malibu and La Brea on Opening Day at Santa Anita were the last of 2010's 111 Grade 1 races in the United States. The complete list is at the bottom of this post; here are the final leaderboards for 2010:

Those 11 winners of two Grade 1's each were Champagne d'Oro, Devil May Care, Evening Jewel, Gio Ponti, Harmoniously, Life at Ten, Lookin at Lucky, Richard's Kid, Smiling Tiger, Uncle Mo and Winchester.

In terms of Grade 1 races unrestricted by age or sex, Blame and Quality Road were the leaders with three apiece, while Gio Ponti, Richard's Kid, Smiling Tiger and Winchester each won two such races.

The top eight trainers won 60 (54 percent) and the top eight jockeys won 64 (57.6 percent) of the year's 111 G1's.

Pletcher's 14 Grade 1's came with nine different horses -- multiple G1 winners Devil May Care, Life at Ten, Quality Road and Uncle Mo and one-time G1 winners Discreetly Mine, Eskendereya, Malibu Prayer, R Heat Lightning and Super Saver. Baffert's nine included two apiece by Lookin at Lucky and Richard's Kid, and one each for A Z Warrior E Z Gentlemen, El Brujo, Gabby's Golden Girl and Misremembered.

Sadler, whose Malibu and La Brea scores vaulted him into a tie with John Shirreffs for third, won his seven Grade 1's with seven different horses: Crisp, Line of David, Mona de Momma, Sidney's Candy, Switch, Tell a Kelly and Twirling Candy.

All 12 of John Velazquez's 12 Grade 1's came on Pletcher trainees -- all of the trainer's G1's except the Kentuckly Derby (Calvin Borel rode Super Saver) and Spinaway (Garrett Gomez rode R Heat Lightning.) In both of those races, Velazquez rode different Pletcher trainees (Devil May Care in the Derby and Stopspendingmaria in the Spinaway.) Smith's dozen included all five of Zenyatta's and all four of Proviso's G1's. Rosario's 10 Grade 1's came aboard 10 different horses -- one each on Blind Luck, Champ Pegasus, Crisp, Dakota Phone, El Brujo, Gypsy's Warning, Harmonious, Mona de Momma, Switch and Twirling Candy.

Much as I enjoy stats for stats' sake, and compiling them is a dandy activity while buried under a foot of snow...

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.


...it's also a stage-setter for this week's blog exercise, which I invite you to join tomorrow: filling out my Eclipse ballot by New Year's Eve. I'll post version 1.0 of my preliminary top three choices in each of the divisional categories tomorrow, and you'll have 72 hours to comment on the error(s) of my ways. (The ballots aren't due until Tuesday but I want to finalize my ballot by Friday to write a Sunday column about it.) 

This isn't about another Horse of the Year debate, but about getting it right with both the divisional winners and the second and third choices in those categories, votes that determine who will be nominated and remembered as the three finalists for each award.


--It's a shame the new Santa Anita dirt track was so spectacularly fast that Spectacular Bid's 30-year-old track record had to fall in the Malibu, but those were legitimately strong performances in the three graded stakes swept by Sadler and Rosario. The winning Beyer figures, once the extraordinary quickness of the new surface was factored in, were a 108 for Twirling Candy's 1:19.70 in the Malibu; a 104 for Sidney's Candy's 1:33.70 in the off-the-turf Sir Beaufort and a 100 for Switch's 1:20.33 in the La Brea.

The Factor, the Baffert-trained 2-year-old who blazed six furlongs in a record 1:06.98, received a Beyer of 102.


--Here's that final Grade 1 list for 2010:



haamer More than 1 year ago
Nice Blizzard Timelapse. Thanks for the entertaining and informative blog all year. Health, happiness, peace and winning tickets for the New Year.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Adding to Jim C.'s point on the New York Grade 1's: Parx Racing (what used to be Philadelphia) also had Blind Luck and Harve de Grace in the Cotillion, a race that while Grade 2 has in recent years consistently drawn Grade 1-calliber stock, with the same being true for the Delaware Oaks (like the Cotillion a Grade 2) at Delaware Park. Though no race other than the BC Juvenile Turf was upgraded to Grade 1, I do think the Cotillion should have been upgraded to become the first Grade 1 stake in the history of Parx Racing while the Delaware Oaks probably also now deserves to be upgraded to a Grade 1 based on its recent history. As for Paul's point, I don't think you can eliminate ALL of the Grade 1's after June 30 for three year olds, however, Graded stakes after say July 31 for three year olds only should be severely limited to longtime fixtures like the Haskell and Travers, as well as the Secretariat on turf at Arlington. The real problem is horses don't race nearly as often as they used to, and unless you started having "mandatory races" that horses had to run in on a much more frequent basis leading up to the Derby/Breeders' Cup, this is only going to continue unless we see for instance a horse like Comma To The Top make 10 starts as a two year win the Triple Crown.
Jim C. More than 1 year ago
Two more examples of grades, which in retrospect, seem questionable. 1. 2010 Santa Maria Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita. Entered were: LIFE IS SWEET, the reigning Breeders' Cup Distaff Champion; MUSHKA, a Grade 1 winner (Spinster)' ST TRINIANS, the No. 3 ranked older female in the country throughout the year by the DRF, the betting favorite against males in the Big Cap (G1), and who came within a neck of beating Zenyatta in the Vanity (G1); and ZARDANA, a Grade 2 winner (Bayakoa), who defeated the reigning Horse of the Year in her next start. There were not many 3 year olds and up filly and mare races this year that compared to the quality of that race. 2. 2010 La Troienne (G2). Entered were: RACHEL ALEXANDRA (the reigning Horse of the Year); UNRIVALLED BELLE (the 2010 Breeders' Cup Distaff Champion), and ZARDANA (see above; beating the Horse of the Year seems the functional equivalent to me of being a "Grade 1 winner").
Paul Gundy More than 1 year ago
It has been greatly expounded that some reasons for racings loss of popularity with fans has been the lack of full competitive fields and the early retirement of our champions at an early age. Well, while they are still racing why do we keep these established or emerging stars apart for much of the year by having an overabundance of graded stakes. History has proved when top horses meet each other on the track that attendance and handle improves and the media gives more attention to the sport. (i.e. Triple Crown / Breeders Cup races). Racing suffers from top races not having full fields loaded with as many marquee horses as possible. NASCAR has driven past horse racing in popularity in the past two decades. One of the reasons why is the track owners came together and made a cohesive racing schedule thus bringing all or most of their driving stars together for each event every weekend. I believe racing needs to replicate the same campaign. This can be done through implementing two procedures. One, reducing the number of grades stakes (especially the highly coveted grade 1’s). Two, not booking any races (stakes or overnights) solely for 3 year olds after June 30 or thereabouts. This will require some sacrifice such as elimination of the Travers or other stakes. But why does New York also run the Whitney and Woodward all within a month and end up with smaller diluted fields. There are many other examples in racing where an oversubscription in racing has caused an under subscription of entries. Recently, racing has consolidated in many ways including less racetracks, races run, stallions, foals, etc. It needs to consolidate the condition books as well. More graded stakes races have created less of a marketable product.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, Most of the "debates" I've heard have become way to peculiar and partisan for my particular tastes. Your exercise should be fun. And personally, I can live with the vote however it falls. Hope you enjoyed the holiday and all that snow!
Steeplestakes More than 1 year ago
4 Grade I victories for Proviso but no Eclipse award because of Goldikova - wow. Speaking of Goldi, it seems inconsistent that voters give her a pass on best turf filly or mare but not on HoY. That logic doesn't hold water.
New Jersey D More than 1 year ago
Its just on my mind: Is it me or are there too many grade 1 races? There are so many grade one races which appear to have little or no impacts on the outcome of the Breeders Cup or Eclipse Awards. Is the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Arkansas Derby, Santa Anite Derby, and Blue Grass of equal footing as the Triple Crown? Thats five races that mpacts three races? In the last three years, how many of these winners went on to win the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, or Travers (which are also grade one's)? How mant winners of the GP Turf, Chuchill Turf Classic, Manhattan, United Nations, or Sword Dancer went on to have any significant impact on the BC Turf? Lets be grateful that California's 1 1/2 race are no longer grade 1's. As far as sprinters are concerned, two of the grade one races run at six furlongs, the Bing Crosby, and the Vanderbilt are run too far in advance to have an impact on the Breeders Cup Sprint. Either the tracks have to move these race to later in the meet or consider shortening the Forego ot Bing Crosby to six furlongs (Seven furlongs makes no sense). I wont waste your time by asking when was the last time the winnier of the Del Mar Futurity or Hopeful (grade ones) wemt on to win the Breeders Sup Juvenile? I think the graded stakes committee needs to rethink the definitiion of grade one races? They can first start by going north of the border and asking them what criteria they use?
bobm toga More than 1 year ago
hi steve, merry christmas. welcome back. just read steve klein comment re: horse of year. he says "blames 4 length margin of defeat in the jockey club gold cup is larger than his combined margins of victory in his 4 other races, giving him a negative average margin" he says he uses that statistic as a factor in determining horse of the year? he has to be kidding right? looking forward to your thoughts tomorrow..
Jim C. More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the charts, Steve. Great work as always. But a reality check is in order. The American Graded Stakes Committee's "grades" often make little sense, and have nothing to do with reality. They also reflect a staggering East Coast bias. Take for example, the Hollywood Oaks (G2), which had Blind Luck and Switch entered. Blind Luck is a multiple Grade 1 winner (including GOING INTO the Hollywood Oaks), and is widely acknowledged by everyone as the best three year old filly in 2010, and soon will have an Eclipse Award under her belt. Switch not only beat her in the Hollywood Oaks, but she also won a Grade 1 Sunday in the Malibu (trouncing multiple Grade 1 winner Champagne d'Oro), placed in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and finished a half-length behind the best horse in training in 2010 in the Lady's Secret. Blind Luck and Switch are two accomplished Grade 1 winning fillies. So how does the Hollywood Oaks field (Blind Luck and Switch) compare to the New York-based "Grade 1" stakes fields for 3 year old fillies? Was the Mother Goose (G1) (Devil May Care, Connie and Michael, and Biofuel) a better field than the Hollywood Oaks? Blind Luck beat Devil May Care by well over ten lengths in the Alabama, and none of the other horses are nearly as accomplished as Switch. Just ridiculous that this was a "Grade 1" race and the Hollywood Oaks was not. Same for the Coaching Club American Oaks (Devil May Care, Biofuel, and Acting Happy). Blind Luck annihilated two of those fillies in the Alabama, each by over ten lengths. While Devil May Care was a formidable horse, she was not as good as Blind Luck, and none of the remainder of the field accomplished as much this year as Switch. Was the Prioress (G1) (Franny Freud, Champagne d'Oro, and Bonnie Blue Flag) a better field than the Hollywood Oaks? None of the top three finishers were as good as Blind Luck, and Switch annihilated Champagne d'Oro and Bonnie Blue Flag in the Malibu. How about the Test (G1) at Saratoga? The top three finishers were Champagne d'Oro, Bonnie Blue Flag, and Belle of the Hall. Again, Switch annihilated the first two in the La Brea, and none of them are in the same zip code as Blind Luck. It's just absurd that all these New York races were "Grade 1s," while the Hollywood Oaks was not.
Dave or Divot80 More than 1 year ago
Even with those speed figures, the Santa Anita track didn't appear to have any particular speed bias, unless I read the charts incorrectly. There appeared to be front running winners along with close closers and a few deep closers making moves. Divot80