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Curlin - Santa Anita

Curlin: won the Arkansas Derby when run as a Grade 2

  PICTURE: Harry How/Getty Images 


Three US stakes races
elevated to Grade 1 status

THE Arkansas Derby, a race that has become one of the best trials for the Kentucky Derby, is one of three races that have been elevated to Grade 1 status in America in 2010.

Three of the recent additions to the Breeders' Cup schedule have also been granted graded-stakes status for the first time - albeit at Grade 2 or 3 - but five US races have lost their Grade 1 standing.

The changes came after a review of the last 12 months by the the American Graded Stakes Committee, an arm of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

The Arkansas Derby, run on dirt over 1m1f at Oaklawn Park in April, becomes the fifth Kentucky Derby trial to be accorded Grarde 1 status alongside the Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park), Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial (Aqueduct) and Blue Grass Stakes (Keeneland).

Recent winners of the $1million event have included Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and Curlin, who between them won five Triple Crown races. Indeed, the trio raced in nine Triple Crown races between them, never finishing worse than third.

The other two races raised to Grade 1 level are the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs - won last weekend by Blame - and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, a 6f event that has long since attracted the nation's best dirt sprinters.

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' Turf and Turf Sprint, both added to the schedule for 2008, have become Grade 2 events, while the Breeders' Cup Marathon is now a Grade 3.

Five races have been downgraded to Grade 2 level, namely the Citation Handicap (Hollywood Park), the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash (Laurel Park), the Go For Wand Handicap (Saratoga), the John C. Mabee Stakes (Del Mar) and the Santa Maria Handicap (Santa Anita).

A total of 15 races in total have been upgraded, with 23 going down the scale.




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