11/28/2007 12:00AM

Three new Grade 1 stakes for 2008

EmailThe American Graded Stakes Committee upgraded 28 races and downgraded 14 after meeting in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday. The committee, which announced the changes Wednesday, is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Twenty turf stakes in the U.S. were upgraded, compared to only four downgraded. Turf racing in the U.S. has become more common over the past five years because they attract full fields and many horsemen prefer to run their horses over the surface.

Three Grade 2 races were upgraded to Grade 1 status: the Maker’s Mark Mile and First Lady Stakes at Keeneland and the Just a Game Stakes at Belmont. All three are run on the grass.

No Grade 1 races were downgraded. Currently, 110 of the 718 eligible stakes in the U.S. have been assigned Grade 1 status, or 15 percent.

Of the 14 stakes that were downgraded, six were ineligible for graded status because they had not been run for two consecutive years. All of the races were held at tracks operated by the New York Racing Association, which cancelled the races as an overhaul of its stakes schedule after the 2005 racing year.

According to the committee’s secretary, Andrew Schweigardt, the committee did not consider assigning Grade 1 status to the three new $1 million races that Breeders’ Cup ran this year at Monmouth Park. Breeders’ Cup officials had initially asked the committee to consider grades for the races but rescinded the request. The committee typically will not assign grades to any race that has not been run for three consecutive years.

Officials for Breeders’ Cup could not be reached late on Thursday.

The committee made the upgrades and downgrades after reviewing 718 unrestricted stakes races in the U.S. with a minimum purse of $75,000, the criteria for a race being assigned a grade. The grading system was devised as a way to help buyers at auctions determine the class of races listed on catalog pages, but it has since evolved into a marketing tool for racetracks and an incentive for trainers and owners of horses destined for the breeding shed.

Seven races were upgraded from Grade 3 status to Grade 2. Eighteen races were upgraded to Grade 3 from an ungraded status last year.

In addition to the six races that lost their grades because of ineligibility – three were Grade 2, and three were Grade 3 – three races were downgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 3, and five race were downgraded from Grade 3 to ungraded.