12/06/2013 2:51PM

455 stakes graded for 2014


The American Graded Stakes Committee assigned grades to 455 races scheduled for 2014, two fewer than for 2013, after meeting to review the grades earlier this week, the committee said on Friday.

One race, the La Troienne at Churchill Downs for older fillies and mares, was elevated from Grade 2 to Grade 1. Two races, the Prioress Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga and the Princess Rooney Stakes for older fillies and mares at Calder Race Course, were downgraded from Grade 1 to Grade 2.

Four races were upgraded to Grade 2 for 2014, including three stakes at Gulfstream Park, which has begun to run year-round for the first time this year: the Sabin Stakes, the Holy Bull Stakes, and the Swale Stakes. The other Grade  2 upgrade was the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Three races were upgraded to Grade 3 status: the Charles Town Oaks at Charles Town in West Virginia; the Torrey Pines at Del Mar; and the L.A. Woman at Santa Anita.

Seven races were downgraded from Grade 2 to Grade  3: the Go for Wand at Aqueduct; the Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita; the Vagrancy and Dwyer Stakes at Belmont; the Sanford at Saratoga; the La Jolla at Del Mar; and the Hutcheson at Gulfstream. Three other Grade 2 races were not eligible for grades in 2014 because they were not run in 2013 as originally scheduled.

Two races were downgraded from Grade 3 to Listed: the Sapling at Monmouth and the Ohio Derby at Thistledown.

The committee met to review the grades on Dec. 4, poring over records of 713 races that met the criteria for grades. Committee members use numerical rankings and the strength of field of the races over the previous several years to make their determinations.

The races run at Hollywood Park in 2013 largely retained their grades for 2014, under the belief that at least a portion will be run at Santa Anita, Del Mar, or Los Alamitos next year. However, some of the stakes are also likely to drop off the calendar, which would further reduce the number of graded stakes for 2014 if they are not run. Hollywood Park, which held 41 graded stakes in 2013, is closing for good as of Dec. 22.

The slight decline in the number of graded events comes at a time when race days have been contracting at a 3 percent annual rate, according to figures released by Equibase. For the number of graded events to keep pace with that decline, the number this year would have had to shrink by nearly 14 races, rather than two.