04/17/2007 11:00PM

New Cup races denied Grade 1 status

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The American Graded Stakes Committee at a meeting on Tuesday unanimously denied a request by Breeders' Cup for the event's three new $1 million races to be assigned Grade 1 status, the secretary of the committee said on Wednesday.

The 10-member committee denied the request because of concerns over the consistency of its grade-ranking process and the lack of historical basis for assigning a new race Grade 1 status, said the secretary, Andy Schweigardt. The committee's rules require a stakes race to be run for two years under identical conditions for the race to be eligible for any grade, though racing organizations may request an exemption.

"In all three cases, the committee did not believe that they should deviate from the normal process," Schweigardt said.

Breeders' Cup was seeking Grade 1 status for three races that will be run the day before Breeders' Cup Saturday: the Juvenile Turf, the Filly and Mare Sprint, and the Dirt Mile. None of the three will be graded this year.

The committee evaluated each race separately after considering a historical review of stakes races that have been awarded a Grade 1 ranking in their first year. According to Schweigardt, the committee has given Grade 1 rankings to races in their first year on only two occasions: for all seven races for the first running of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, and when the Breeders' Cup added the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf in 1999.

In 1984, Schweigardt said, only two races in the world other than the Breeders' Cup's seven races had purses of $1 million or more, and both were Grade 1 races. In 2007, by contrast, 15 races in the U.S. aside from the Breeders' Cup races will have purses of $1 million or more, and 77 worldwide.

"Part of the process was looking at the races in that context," Schweigardt said, "as far as what $1 million means today."

In addition, the committee believed that each race did not fill a niche on the U.S. racing calendar that would warrant a Grade 1 ranking without an evaluation of the fields each race attracted, Schweigardt said.

Schweigardt said the committee felt that the Filly and Mare Sprint warranted the strongest consideration for a Grade 1 ranking, but the committee "felt that doing so would not be consistent in applying the rules."

Greg Avioli, the president of Breeders' Cup, said on Wednesday the organization would likely request that the races be given Grade 1 status next year.

"We applied because we expected that given the fact that these were going to be Breeders' Cup championship races and have $1 million purses that that would be sufficient to get the Grade 1 status," Avioli said. "Apparently the committee didn't feel that way. We still feel we'll get Grade 1-caliber competition and plenty of international participants."