One of the most notable changes made by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association last year was to downgrade the Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course from its long-standing I to II.
The most notable change heading into 2013 will be a return to Grade I status for the Hopeful, the biggest stakes race for 2-year-old colts during the Saratoga meet.
Saratoga Springs native Terri Pompay won the first Grade I of her career as a head trainer when Currency Swap took the 2010 edition of the Hopeful.
After it was downgraded to II this year, it was won by Shanghai Bobby, owned by Starlight Racing and managing partners Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Jack Wolf.
Shanghai Bobby became a Grade I winner, anyway, taking the Champagne at Belmont Park in his next race, followed by the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, virtually sewing up the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old males.
The graded-stakes committee reviewed 673 unrestricted U.S. stakes with a purse of least $75,000 and awarded graded status to 457 of them, eight fewer than in 2012.
For the first time, the committee is responsible for assigning listed status to stakes.
Besides the Hopeful, one other stakes, the Delaware Handicap, was upgraded to I.
Three races were downgraded from Grade I to Grade II: the Gazelle at Aqueduct, the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park and the Santa Monica at Santa Anita Park.
Four were upgraded to Grade II status: the Ft. Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park, Colonial Turf Cup (from listed) at Colonial Downs, Sorrento at Del Mar and Monrovia at Santa Anita.
Seven were downgraded from Grade II to Grade III: the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Race Course, General George Handicap at Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship at Gulfstream Park, Fantasy at Oaklawn Park and Robert J. Frankel at Santa Anita.
The Kentucky Cup Stakes at Turfway Park was not eligible for grading in 2013.
Races upgraded to III were: Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park, Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park, Arlington Classic at Arlington Park, Gallant Bob and Parx Dash at Parx Racing and Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.
Also downgraded on the New York Racing Association circuit was the Cicada at Aqueduct, from Grade III to listed status.
The consistent and productive sprinter Kid Kate, trained by Mechanicville native Chad Brown, will make the last start of her career today at Aqueduct as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the $75,000 Garland of Roses.
She was a stakes winner at 2, 3, 4 and 5 years of age, but was winless in five career graded-stakes tries.
A daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Cherokee Run mare Run Kate Run owned and bred by Dell Ridge Farm, she is 8-4-4 from 24 starts for $462,229 in purses.
“When you consider she’s won stakes races for me four consecutive years, you can’t do any better than that,” Brown told the New York Racing Association. “She’s been a very consistent, classy filly, and a pleasure to be around.”
Kid Kate broke her maiden first time out at Saratoga in 2009.
She’s won stakes races at all three NYRA tracks and also at Monmouth Park, where she won the Junior Champion Stakes in her second career start.
Last year at Saratoga, Kid Kate won the Rachel Alexandra and Lady Tak.
She’s 1-1-1 from six starts this year, and her only loss in five career starts at Saratoga was a second by a half-length to Mildly Offensive in this year’s Big Bambu.
“Hopefully, she can go out on a winning note,” Brown said.
Two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez will be out for a few weeks after injuring his foot while leaving the gate aboard Desert Sunny on the way to a win in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 14.
Dominguez continued to ride — very well, in fact, winning 21 of 62, including the Cigar Mile on Stay Thirsty. But his foot was bothering him when he walked, so he went for X-rays.
There was no break, but the doctor recommended that he take some time off.
Dominguez is scheduled to begin riding again on Dec. 26, when
Aqueduct resumes racing. The track will be closed to live racing from Dec. 17-25.
thunder moccasin retired
Starlight Racing’s Thunder Moccasin, the undefeated winner of the Grade II Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park this year, has been retired and will stand as a stallion at the Appleton family’s Bridlewood Farm near Ocala, Fla.
He began his career by running a 1:15.81 for 61⁄2 furlongs in a maiden race last year at Gulfstream.
In a brief racing career hampered by physical problems, Thunder Moccasin had a promising start to this season by winning the Hutcheson by 63⁄4 lengths, but never made it back to the track.
GRADE I GODOLPHIN
Dance Card’s win in the Gazelle at Aqueduct on Saturday made her the fifth horse owned by Godolphin Racing to win a Grade I this year.
The others were Emcee, who won the Forego at Saratoga Race Course; Questing, who swept the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga; Alpha, who dead-heated with Golden Ticket in the Travers; and It’s Tricky, who won the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont.
Through Saturday, Godolphin runners were 14-6-9 from 49 starts for almost $3.6 million in purses.
“If you put Darley and Godolphin together, it would be $7 million, almost,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “It was a pretty good year from only 40-odd starts.”
AROUND THE TRACKS
The Belmont Park fall meet posted an 11.5 percent gain in total handle, to $335.2 million, and all-sources handle on NYRA races was up 13.7 percent, to $299.1 million, compared to last year.
Attendance at Belmont was down 14.3 percent, to 114,284 for 36 live racing days. . . .
A recently extended quarantine because of an equine herpes outbreak at Hawthorne Race Cousrse is disrupting travel plans for trainers trying to ship out of Illinois for the winter.
A horse was euthanized on Monday, and a necropsy revealed the horse had EHV-1, the fourth horse to die of the disease since the Oct. 5 start of the Hawthorne fall meet.