Graded Stakes Races Reduced by 13 in 2011

by Greg Melikov

posted on December 6, 2010 in General Discussion, News | 1 Comment >>

There will be 13 fewer graded stakes next year with Calder Race Course taking the biggest hit among tracks across the country.

Calder, one of three South Florida tracks that figured in changes for 2011, had four stakes downgraded from Grade 3:

  • Stage Door Betty Handicap at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
  • Memorial Day Handicap at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds and up.
  • Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds and up.
  • Tropical Park Derby at 1 1/8 miles on the turf 3-year-olds. The New Year’s Day race has served as the first Kentucky Derby prep in the nation after becoming a Grade 2 in 1983.

Calder officials were puzzled upon receiving the news.

“I can understand the logic for the Stage Door Betty and Kenny Noe being downgraded,” John Marshall, vice president and general manager of racing, told the Daily Racing Form.

The Kenny Noe was canceled in the fall due to financial considerations. The Stage Door Betty, moved from Dec. 18 to New Year’s Day, was allowed to remain a Grade 3 for the upcoming running.

“But I am very disappointed the stakes committee viewed the Tropical Park Derby and Memorial Day the way they did,” he said. “Of course, this doesn’t say we’re not going to have these races again next year and we are especially going to be committed to build the Tropical Park Derby back to the level it once was. We’re definitely not giving up on that one.”

During the recent annual grading session conducted by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, 474 of 689 unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a minimum purse of $75,000 were assigned graded status.

The Tropical Park Derby has had an impressive list of winners since the ’75 inaugural. The more recent standouts included:

  • Barbaro, who in ’06 used the victory as a springboard to capturing the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
  • Kitten’s Joy, the winner in ’04 that earned the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top turf horse.

The race gets its name from old Tropical Park whose dates were assumed by Calder when the South Miami-Dade track closed in ’71. Star of the Sea won the inaugural when the distance was 1 1/16 miles.

Meanwhile, the Gulfstream Park ungraded Marshua’s River Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 4-year-old fillies and mares was made a Grade 3.

Tampa Bay Downs saw its Florida Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 3-year-old fillies lose Grade 3 status, but two other stakes were elevated.

The Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds earned Grade 2 status. The Tampa Bay Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 4-year-olds and up was made a Grade 3.

A total of five graded stakes were upgraded, including one to Grade 1 – the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, won in November by Pluck.