Updated on 09/15/2011 1:32PM

Four new Grade 1's, including the Wood

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The Wood Memorial, the race for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct that has produced the winner of the Kentucky Derby the past two years, will be one of four Grade 2 races upgraded to Grade 1 in 2002, the American Graded Stakes Committee announced on Thursday.

The other three races promoted to Grade 1 are run in Kentucky: the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington and the Humana Distaff Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Grade 1 races are considered the best races in the country; 101 Grade 1 races, out of an estimated 55,000 races run annually in the U.S., will be run in 2002.

The Wood clearly earned its promotion through the performance of its runners over the past two years. Last year's winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, won the Kentucky Derby, while runner-up, Red Bullet, won the Preakness. This year's runner-up, Monarchos, also won the Derby, while winner Congaree ran third in the Derby and Preakness and later won the Grade 1 Swaps Stakes.

In all, the stakes committee, which is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, changed the grades for 38 races after a two-day review of 751 unrestricted stakes races in the United States. The committee decided to upgrade 22 races. Going the other way, the committee voted to downgrade 16 races, although one of the races, the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park, was discontinued.

Initially assigned in the early 1970's as a tool to help foreign bloodstock buyers assess the quality of races listed in sales catalogs, grades have evolved into marketing tools for racetracks, advertising hooks for stallions and mares, and mechanisms to determine eligibility for many top U.S. races, including the Kentucky Derby and the races of the World Thoroughbred Championships. The grades are reviewed each year by the committee using the help of a computer program that analyzes racing results for the past five years.

The committee, which has 12 voting members, downgraded four Grade 1 races to Grade 2, including the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, which this year was run as a Grade 1 for the first time.

Last year, the promotion of the Jim Dandy, which has been traditionally viewed as a prep for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, was sharply criticized by officials of Monmouth Park, who complained that the promotion would hamper the track's efforts to draw horses to the Haskell Invitational Stakes, a Grade 1 for 3-year-olds run at Monmouth the same weekend as the Jim Dandy.

The committee sends out a warning a year before taking a final vote to downgrade the race. Wilson Shirley, TOBA's director of information services, said that the warning for the Jim Dandy was issued at the same time it was upgraded.

"That frequently happens with Grade 1 races, not especially with the Grade 2's or others," Shirley said. "Basically, it says the race looks like a Grade 1 now, but the committee reserves the right to bring it back down."

* RACES DOWNGRADED FOR 2002
Two-Year-Old Fillies
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Oak Leaf S. Santa Anita Grade I to Grade II
Three-Year-Old Fillies
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Railbird S. Hollywood Grade II to Grade III
Reeve Schley Jr. S. (T) Monmouth Grade III to Ungraded
Sweetest Chant S. (T) Gulfstream discontinued
Older Fillies and Mares
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Hawthorne H. Hollywood Grade II to Grade III
Two-Year-Olds
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Arlington-Washington Futurity Arlington Grade II to Grade III
Bashford Manor S. Churchill Grade II to Grade III
Three-Year-Olds
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Jim Dandy S. Saratoga Grade I to Grade II
Super Derby Louisiana Downs Grade I to Grade II
Swaps S. Hollywood Grade I to Grade II
Kentucky Cup Sprint S. Turfway Grade II to Grade III
Round Table S. Arlington Grade III to Ungraded
Older Horses
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Bel Air H. Hollywood Grade II to Grade III
Fall Highweight H. Aqueduct Grade II to Grade III
Laurel Turf Cup S. (T) Laurel Grade III to Ungraded
William P. Kyne H. Bay Meadows ineligible
* RACES UPGRADED FOR 2002
Three-Year-Old Fillies
RACE TRACK UPGRADE
Raven Run S. Keeneland Ungraded to Grade III
Miss Preakness S. Pimlico Ungraded to Grade III
Older Fillies and Mares
RACE TRACK UPGRADE
Humana Distaff H. Churchill Grade II to Grade I
Falls City H. Churchill Downs Grade III to Grade II
Fleur de Lis H. Churchill Downs Grade III to Grade II
Princess Rooney S. Calder Grade III to Grade II
Vagrancy H. Belmont Grade III to Grade II
Floral Park H. Belmont Ungraded to Grade III
Three-Year-Olds
RACE TRACK UPGRADE
Wood Memorial S. Aqueduct Grade II to Grade I
Barrera Memorial H. Hollywood Grade III to Grade II
Indiana Derby Hoosier Ungraded to Grade III
Leonard Richards S. Delaware Ungraded to Grade III
Lone Star Derby Lone Star Ungraded to Grade III
Long Branch S. Monmouth Ungraded to Grade III
Risen Star S. Fair Grounds Ungraded to Grade III
Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Ungraded to Grade III
West Virginia Derby Mountaineer Ungraded to Grade III
Older Horses
RACE TRACK UPGRADE
Stephen Foster H. Churchill Grade II to Grade I
Shadwell Turf Mile (T) Keeneland Grade II to Grade I
Louisville H. (T) Churchill Downs Ungraded to Grade III
Memorial Day H. Calder Ungraded to Grade III
Miami Mile H. (T) Calder Ungraded to Grade III
* RACES DOWNGRADED FOR 2003
RACE TRACK DOWNGRADE
Gulfstream Park H. Gulfstream Grade I to Grade II
Illinois Derby Sportsman's Grade II to Grade III
San Bernardino H. Santa Anita Grade II to Grade III
Honeybee S. Oaklawn Park Grade III to Ungraded
Stymie H. Aqueduct Grade III to Ungraded
Source: American Graded Stakes Committee