Lexington, KY (Sports Network) - Two of the three Breeders' Cup races introduced in 2007 have been granted Grade I status for 2009 by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. A third Breeders' Cup event has been designated as a Grade II stakes.
The committee met on Monday, November 24 in Lexington and decided that the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, along with the Dirt Mile, are worthy of the top designation of Grade I. Gaining Grade II for the coming year is the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. All three races were run for the first time last year when Monmouth Park hosted the World Thoroughbred Championships.
"We are pleased that the Graded Stakes Committee recognized the world-class quality of the competition in our new races," said Pamela Blatz-Murff, Senior Vice President, Breeders' Cup Racing, "and we believe its decision, along with the enthusiastic reaction of the top owners and trainers in the world, is another validation of our expansion from eight to 14 championship races."
Also elevated to Grade I are the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park, Pat P. Brien and Clement L. Hirsch Handicaps at Del Mar and Keeneland's Vinery Madison Stakes.
The committee lowered the status of Belmont Park's Suburban Handicap from Grade I to II.
Along with the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, six other stakes were upgraded to Grade II, most notably the West Virginia Derby held at Mountaineer Park.
Among the 10 stakes moved up to Grade III are the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs and the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
"I am very pleased by the Graded Stakes Committee's decision," said Peter Berube, Vice President and General Manager of Tampa Bay Downs, "as the Sam F. Davis has become an integral part of the Tampa Bay Downs stakes program."
The Committee reviewed 746 unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to 488 of them, seven more than were graded in 2008.