11/25/2008 8:48PM



Here's the Thanksgiving Weekend lineup of 14 graded stakes, four of them Grade 1's and all at Aqueduct, Churchill or Hollywood:

Thursday's featured Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct is not a graded race this year but was among the 10 currently ungraded races that are being elevated to G3 status next year, part of the annual tinkering by the Graded Stakes Committee that was announced earlier today. A few quick reactions to the announced changes:

 Grades --I'm not clear why the Pat O'Brien at Del Mar needed to be upgraded from a G2 to a G1. This now creates a summertime coastal inequity: Del Mar's two sprints for older males are now both G1's (the Bing Crosby and the O'Brien) while Saratoga's Vanderbilt is a G2 and the Forego is a G1.

--Similarly, why upgrade Keeneland's Madison from a G2 to a G1 without doing the same for Belmont's Gallant Bloom? Just because Ventura won it last year? It's hard to see much difference between the two races for older filly sprinters.

--And if it sounds like I'm just whining about New York races not being upgraded, I see no reason why the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont deserved a boost from G2 to G1 status. Top 3-year-old grass horses should be running against their elders by October, not being encouraged to stay out of those spots with a G1 restricted by age so late in the season.

--The GSC deserves credit for not bestowing Grade 1 status on all three of the Breeders' Cup races introduced last year that were eligible for grades for the first time in 2009. They made the F&M Sprint and Dirt Mile G1 races but gave only a G2 to the Juvenile Turf. Here's hoping they're even more conservatiove next year when the newer Juvenile Turf Fillies, Marathon and Turf Sprint are eligible for grading. None of them shold be given G1 status.