Updated on 11/30/2012 5:09PM

Hopeful and Delaware Handicap boosted to Grade 1 status

Royal Delta, the favorite for champion older female of 2012, won this year's Delaware Handicap. It will be a Grade 1 race in 2013.

The American Graded Stakes Committee has upgraded both the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park and the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga from Grade 2 to Grade 1 for 2013 as part of its annual review of the stakes calendar in the United States.

The Hopeful and Delaware Handicap were two of the 12 races that were upgraded by the committee during the review. The committee upgraded three stakes from Grade 3 to Grade 2 and additionally upgraded the listed Colonial Turf Cup to Grade 2. Six races were upgraded from listed to Grade 3.

Three races were downgraded from Grade 1 to Grade 2: the Gazelle at Aqueduct, the Santa Monica at Santa Anita, and the Charles Whittingham Memorial at Betfair Hollywood Park. Seven stakes were downgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 3, including five races for older horses. Six races were downgraded from Grade 3 to listed, while another nine races were eliminated from being considered for a grade or listed status because they were not run last year, including all of the races on the Kentucky Cup card, which was canceled in 2012 by its host, Turfway Park.

[STEVEN CRIST: Committee gets it right with graded stakes changes]

All told, the 2013 calendar will feature one fewer Grade 1, three fewer Grade 2s, and four fewer Grade 3s, for a total of 457 graded stakes scheduled to be run next year. The graded stakes committee, which is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, has been under pressure to reduce the number of graded stakes run in the United States because of dramatic declines in the foal crop over the past five years. So far, declines in the number of graded stakes being offered on the U.S. calendar have not matched the drops in the foal crop.

The Delaware Handicap has been a staging ground for some of the best fillies and mares in the country over the past several years, despite its Grade 2 status. In 2012, Royal Delta – the overwhelming favorite for champion older female of 2012 – beat top fillies Tiz Miz Sue and Awesome Maria. In 2011, 2010 champion 3-year-old filly Blind Luck beat eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.

The upgrade for the Hopeful restores the race’s Grade 1 status just one year after being downgraded to Grade 2. This year’s Hopeful was won by Shanghai Bobby, who went on to win the Grade 1 Champagne and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his two next starts to remain undefeated in his five 2012 races.

The graded stakes committee reviewed 673 races held in 2012 that were eligible for grading in 2013 at a session Nov. 28. To be eligible, races must have a purse of at least $75,000. Races restricted to statebreds are not eligible for grades.

This year, the committee was responsible for determining which races would be eligible for listed status for the first time, using a new set of criteria. The committee assigned 201 races listed status, and horses that finish in the top three of those races will be listed in lower-case black type in sales catalogs.

Grades are ostensibly assigned to races to aid buyers at auctions in determining the class of the horse’s competition. The ratings also are used by tracks to market their races.

2013 graded stakes changes


To Grade 1

Delaware H. - Delaware Park
Hopeful S. - Saratoga

To Grade 2

Fort Lauderdale S. - Gulfstream
Colonial Turf Cup (Listed) - Colonial Downs
Sorrento S. - Del Mar
Monrovia S. - Santa Anita

To Grade 3

Dania Beach S. - Gulfstream
Oklahoma Derby - Remington Park
Arlington Classic S. - Arlington Park
Gallant Bob S. - Parx
Parx Dash H. - Park
Florida Oaks - Tampa Bay Downs


To Grade 2

Charles Whittingham Mem. H. - Betfair Hollywood Park
Gazelle S. - Aqueduct
Santa Monica S. - Santa Anita

To Grade 3

Red Smith H. - Aqueduct
W.L. McKnight H. - Calder
General George H. - Laurel
Gulfstream Park Sprint Champ. S. - Gulfstream
Fantasy S. - Oaklawn
Robert J. Frankel S. - Santa Anita

To Listed

Hollywood Juvenile. Champ. S. - Betfair Hollywood Park
Railbird - Betfair Hollywood Park
Spend a Buck H. - Calder
Debutante S. - Churchill
Arlington-Washington Lassie S. - Arlington
Cicada S. - Aqueduct

Not eligible for grading in 2013: La Habra S., San Rafael S., and Thunder Road S. (Santa Anita); Kentucky Cup S., Kentucky Cup Distaff S., Kentucky Cup Sprint S., Kentucky Cup Juvenile S., and Turfway Fall Championship S. (Turfway); Locust Grove H. (Churchill)

Downgraded from Listed to non-Listed black type: Gold Rush Futurity S. (Arapahoe); Mine That Bird Derby (Sunland);  Zia Park Derby (Zia Park); Sophomore Sprint, Memorial Day H., Summer Finale S., Decoration Day H., and Firecracker S. (Mountaineer); Bachelor S. (Oaklawn); Rumson S. (Monmouth); San Juan County Commissioners H. (SunRay Park); Brandywine S. (Park); Prairie Gold Lassie S. (Prairie Meadows);  Femme Fatale S. and Red Carpet S. (Penn National)