Updated on 09/16/2011 6:42AM

Niagara turf race raised to Grade 1

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TORONTO - The Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up that again will serve as Woodbine's major prep for the Canadian International, has been elevated to Grade 1 status.

The Niagara's promotion was the major change announced Tuesday as the Canadian Graded Stakes Committee released a list of 40 graded stakes that will be run in Canada this year.

The five Grade 1 stakes, all at Woodbine, are headed by the $1.5 million Canadian International Sept. 29 and the $1 million Atto Mile Sept. 8. The dates and purses for the majority of the graded events have not been finalized.

The Nassau, now a Grade 2 turf race for fillies and mares at Woodbine, was the only other stakes to be upgraded for this season.

The Mazarine Breeders' Cup and Grey Breeders' Cup, both Grade 1 races in recent years, have been dropped a notch on the graded scale along with the Marine and Eclipse, which were demoted from Grade 2 to Grade 3. All four races are run at Woodbine, which will play host to all but eight of the graded stakes.

The other change for 2002 involves the Speed to Spare, Northland's Park's premier event for 3-year-olds and up, which has lost its Grade 3 ranking.

Northlands now will offer just one graded event, as will Stampede Park and Assiniboia Downs. Hastings Park will be the scene of five graded stakes, including the British Columbia Derby, the country's only Grade 2 race not run in Ontario.

The Canadian Graded Stakes Committee has been grading the country's stakes races since 1999 after Canada defected from the North American Graded Stakes program. Canadian gradings are recognized internationally and stakes restricted to Canadian-breds, the prime example being the Queen's Plate, do not qualify for consideration.

There also are minimum purse requirements of $125,000 for Grade 1, $100,000 for Grade 2 and $75,000 for Grade 3.