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Dec 09, 2011

Parx Racing gaining stakes recognition

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Each year the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association re-evaluates all the stakes races in the United States with a minimum purse of $75,000. Stakes can be elevated in status, reduced or remain status quo.

Racetracks take great pride in having their stakes races given a graded status. In particular the tracks not considered major venues for racing.

This year the committee gave special recognition to stakes races conducted at Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia. The former Philadelphia Park, and before that Keystone Race Track, gained several upgrades to their stakes.

For the first time in track history a Grade I race, the highest level stakes, will be held at Parx Racing. The Cotillion Stakes for three-year-old fillies has gained the coveted position as Grade I.

The last three runnings of the Cotillion have featured the best of each year's sophomore fillies. In 2009 Careless Jewel may have been the second best filly behind Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Prior to capturing the Cotillion, Careless Jewel won the Delaware Oaks and Alabama.

In 2010 the two best female three-year-olds, Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, hooked up in another edition of their now historic rivalry. Havre de Grace finally got the win over Blind Luck who had defeated the Delaware Park-based filly in the Alabama and Delaware Oaks.

This year's Cotillion showcased two of the top fillies in training. Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty was again facing It's Tricky winner of the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks. Trained by Bob Baffert, Plum Pretty avenged the American Oaks loss by crushing It's Tricky by more than seven-lengths.

Joining the Cotillion and the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby on the graded stakes roster at Parx Racing are the Smarty Jones, Greenwood Cup and Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap, all three being elevated to Grade III.

Another track beaming with pride is Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. The track's premier race, the $1,000,000 Charles Town Classic, has been moved up to Grade II after just three editions.

"Every member of our team should be proud that their efforts and hard work are resulting in some historic firsts for our track," said Erich Zimny, Director of Racing Operations. "In 18 of the last 19 months, our average daily handle has grown versus the prior year's number and there are more eyes on racing in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia than there ever have been. We could not have accomplished that - or sustain it - without our event days."

Duke of Mischief won this year Classic followed by Santa Anita Handicap champ Game On Dude and Whitney Handicap winner Tizway. Eventual Pacific Classic winner Acclamation finished last in the 10-horse field.

What do each of these two tracks have in common? Casinos.

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