2017 Graded Stakes Announced

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association late last week released the list of American graded races for 2017. This announcement always produces its fair share of griping, handwringing, and second-guessing. This time around the downgrading, from grade I to grade II, of the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Mother Goose has garnered the most attention and much has been written in the past two days so this blog will leave the commentary to those that know best.

There have been questions about Canterbury Park receiving graded status for one of its six-figure stakes races. The most likely candidate would be the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby and then perhaps the $100,000 Lady Canterbury. It has been since the Downs’ days that Canterbury has had a thoroughbred race in the graded spectrum:  the 1990 and 1991 Lady Canterbury held grade III status. The Canterbury Cup Handicap of 1991 was also a grade III and the 1991 Minnesota Derby, won by Olympio, was a grade II.

While the process is somewhat subjective there are many objective components meant to keep to keep it legit. Smaller tracks yearn to have a graded race as it does bring with it a measure of respect, exposure, and the suggestion of success but it also requires purse money that arguably could be better put toward a quality racing program day in and out.

At one time evidently there was an attempt to throw a bone to smaller tracks as this statement can be found on TOBA’s website:    The concept of purposely granting a grade to a race at a lesser track in hopes of boosting the track was tried over some years and found to be ineffective; the Committee has therefore abandoned this approach.

The site provides other useful insight:   For the grading of races, committee members are provided information prepared by The Jockey Club Information Systems, Thoro-Graph and TOBA. Statistical information is provided for all races eligible to be graded, aiming at a Breeders’ Cup-to-Breeders’ Cup year. This information details statistics of graded and other eligible races.

Here are factors considered by the committee:

Purse requirementA race is not considered for grading unless it is scheduled to have a total purse value of at least $75,000 for Listed and eligible, ungraded, $100,000 for Grade III, $200,000 for Grade II, and $300,000 for Grade I.

LongevityRaces are not graded unless they have had two previous runnings under fundamentally the same conditions, for the same division of horses, and meeting the minimum purse requirements.

The Mystic Lake Derby fits the bill in both cases.

The quality of a race is evaluated using many criteria including this:

Stakes performance of all horses in the field in the 24 months before and after the race, and annual classification ratings of the four highest-rated horses in the field.

The grade 3 win by Hay Dakota last month should help the Mystic Lake. The 2016 edition also included One Mean Man who has graded credentials and is still in action. The race has had quality runners in the past. Long On Value, winner of the 2014 Mystic Lake Derby, went on to a couple of graded stakes wins.

Canterbury’s racing quality is improving and as trainers that carry an inventory of horses capable of winning graded races look to Shakopee, the chances of a graded event improve.

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