12/01/2017 1:41PM

Delaware Handicap downgraded for 2018


The Delaware Handicap has been downgraded from a Grade 1 race to a Grade 2 race as part of the annual review of all graded stakes races in the U.S., according to the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

The Delaware Handicap was the only Grade 1 race downgraded for 2018, and no Grade 2 races were upgraded to Grade 1, the committee announced Friday. In total, the committee assigned grades to a total of 455 races, an overall decline of nine graded races.

The Delaware Handicap is for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up, and its roster of winners includes some impressive horses, including recent champions Songbird and Royal Delta. This year, Songbird won the race at 1-9, overwhelming an overmatched field.

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Last year, the committee determined that it would seek to reduce the overall number of graded races run in the U.S. because of a sharp decline in the foal crop over the past five years, a drop that has resulted in a subsequent contraction in the number of races held at U.S. racetracks. That had led to concerns that the number of graded races had become unbalanced when compared to the total number of races held.

As a result of the grading decisions, there will be one fewer Grade 1 run in 2018 compared with this year. There will be one additional Grade 2 next year, and nine fewer Grade 3 races.

The committee upgraded seven Grade 3 races to Grade 2, including four races at Belmont Park: the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, the Hill Prince, the Jaipur Invitational and the Miss Grillo. Two races at Keeneland were upgraded to Grade 2, the Appalachian and Jessamine, and one race at Saratoga, the Glen Falls Stakes, was upgraded to Grade 2.

Seven races were downgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 3: the Nashua at Aqueduct; the Forward Gal, Honey Fox, Royal Delta, and Swale at Gulfstream; the Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup at Laurel; and the Amsterdam at Saratoga.

Five races were upgraded from listed to Grade 3: the Soaring Softly at Belmont, the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs; the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer Park, the Remington Oaks at Remington Park, and the Troy Stakes at Saratoga. Eleven stakes were downgraded from Grade 3 to listed.

In addition, the committee said that 16 races that were either graded or listed in 2017 were no longer eligible for grading.