10/07/2010 2:12PM

Why Is The Jamaica A Grade 1 Race?


This is not the first year that Saturday's Jamaica Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-olds on the turf at Belmont Park carries Grade 1 status. It is the second. But it still feels wrong. And now, it feels like a perpetuation of an error.

Usually, I don't take much issue with the job the American Graded Stakes Committee does. But it was a mystery to not only me when this group elevated the 2009 running of the Jamaica to the highest level we know in the sport in this country. And I admit, I still don't understand why they did it.

The last five winners of the Jamaica were Take the Points, Court Vision, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Showing Up, and Watchmon. Some of those were nice horses, but none of them ring like top level Grade 1 performers, although Court Vision has made it a point to manage his infrequent victories in some big Grade 1 spots. So unlike the Arkansas Derby, which ironically was upgraded to Grade 1 a year after the Jamaica was, it isn't like the Jamaica simply had to be upgraded because it was being won year after year by top-notch race horses.

And the Graded Stakes Committee won't get much help in justifying maintaining Grade 1 status for the Jamaica from this year's field. The 11 entered in Saturday's Jamaica have made a total of 91 career starts, and only one - ONE! -  of those came in a Grade 1 event. That was from Admiral Alex, who finished last of 11 in the Travers - on dirt - beaten 31 1-2 lengths.

Some could argue that the reason why the entrants in the Jamaica have hardly any Grade 1 starts to their credit is because there are hardly any Grade 1 turf races for 3-year-olds. I would counter by saying that is reason enough for the Jamaica to not be a Grade 1 race. But there is a Grade 1 turf race for 3-year-olds that I can think of right off the top of my head: the Secretariat at Arlington Park. And the Secretariat strikes me as a far more legitimate Grade 1 race than the Jamaica because it is run in the middle of August when top 3-year-olds still compete within their age class. Moreover, the winners of the Secretariat traditionally go on to face older opponents in the fall. The Jamaica is run at a time of year - the fall - when 3-year-olds should be facing their elders. It seems convoluted, at this point in the season, to offer a Grade 1 reward to 3-year-olds who don't venture out of their age class.

But what I don't like is the fact that the Jamaica is a Grade 1 race while legitimate, major races like the Louisiana Derby, the Remsen, and the even the Suburban are not ranked as highly. And what bothers me the most about this is, the Jamaica, a race restricted to 3-year-olds on the turf run during a time of year when it is totally overshadowed by more than a dozen other races and which isn't even a direct lead-in to any Breeders' Cup event, is considered by the American Graded Stakes Committee to be on a par with the Breeders' Cup Classic and Kentucky Derby.

joe More than 1 year ago
Does anyone think a mile is to short for Gio Ponti, or am I reading to much into this?
Gary C More than 1 year ago
As far as I an concerned no resticted races for 3 yr olds should be graded after August. It because all of these restricted races offer big purses, the quality of racing in mMerica is in a steep decline.
wilson More than 1 year ago
With all the good and great horses that have rolled through Colonial Downs in the Virginia Derby I think its time that the Virginia Derby get the Grade I designation as well. Remember Da Hoss, English Channel, Red Giant, Showing Up, Kip Deville, Gio Ponti, Court Vision and Paddy 'O Prado all serve to boost the Virginia Derby's status to Grade I. For a 3 year old turf race it has the Jamaica beat hands down.
eric t More than 1 year ago
Mike- Im not necessarily disagreeing with you about the jamaica's grade 1 status, however, several of the horses you showed as winning this race in the last 5 years were grade 1 types. I think you may be forgetting how good a horse Showing Up was for a period of time. He was one of the better turf males late in his 3 yr old season and into his 4 yr old season if i am remembering correctly. In fact im pretty sure that 3 of those past jamaica winners (court vision, nobiz like shobiz, and showing up) were all multiple grade 1 winners. Correct me if i am wrong. I would probably have to see the rest of the fields they competed against to get a better idea whether this race is grade 1 worthy or not but based on a few of the last 5 winners i would be willing to say there are probably other grade 1's just as worthy of demotion if not more so. Regardless, i always enjoy your take and Weekend Warrior in the DRF. Enjoy the holiday wknd. eric t
Mike Costello More than 1 year ago
The Graded Stakes Committee lost me when they downgraded the Jon C. Mabee to a G2.
bigjc More than 1 year ago
I agree i couldn't understand any reason for the Jamaica to be anything higher than a grade 3