American Quarter Horse Association, April 26, 2019 – The 2020 AQHA Graded Stakes have been approved and are now available at AQHA’s website.
Stakes grades are reviewed by the AQHA Graded Stakes Committee and ultimately approved by the AQHA Executive Committee. Approximately 2 percent of American Quarter Horse races run each year are graded stakes. Only 0.4 percent of all American Quarter Horse races run each year are Grade 1 status.
There is a total of 32 races that will have grades promoted in 2020, an increase of about 7 percent from 2019.
The year-over-year increase is due in large part to a yearlong, multifaceted overhaul to the Graded Stakes Committee process. The committee met on four occasions in 2017-18, with the objective of creating a more equitable method of assigning graded stakes. Reforms include broadened metrics to evaluate field quality, as well as divisional consideration given to filly and mare and distance stakes for 3-year-olds and up.
“The process for determining graded stakes has long been a topic of conversation amongst the racing community,” said AQHA Chief Racing Officer Janet VanBebber. “There was significant reform to the guidelines in 2000, 2004 and again in 2009. These modifications landed on a process of combining a point system, a three-year average and purse tiers as variables considered when determining a stakes race’s potential grade. While most felt the system did a good job in guiding the Graded Stakes Committee in making the final determination, there were specific instances where the criteria seemed to miss its mark.
“As a result of the in-depth meetings to discuss additional improvements, modifications were made to the system that involved an adjusted algorithm for quality points calculated per race. Before, only the first three finishers in a graded stakes race contributed to the points system, and with the revisions, all participants in a graded stakes contribute to the point value. Also, added consideration is now given to participants who compete in different regions and new criteria was determined for both filly and mare races and 870-yard races. Lastly, the purse values for each given tier were modified. The Graded Stakes Committee presented its modifications to the Racing Committee in November 2018 during the Racing Conference at Los Alamitos. All were in agreement that the new criteria were an improvement and better represented the racing industry today.”
Full guidelines for the graded stakes process are available at www.aqha.com/graded-stakes.
One race will gain an open Grade 1 status in 2020 – the Junos Request Stakes for fillies and mares age 3 and up at Remington Park, which moves from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 race.
The Governor’s Cup Futurity at Los Alamitos will move from a Restricted Grade 2 to a Restricted Grade 1.
Former Grade 3 races that will move up to Grade 2 races in 2020 include the Decketta Stakes, Heritage Place Derby, the Downs at Albuquerque Distance Challenge, James Isaac Hobbs Stakes, Las Damas Handicap, Los Alamitos Championship Challenge, PCQHRA Breeders’ Derby and Remington Distance Challenge.
Restricted Grade 3 races that will move up to Restricted Grade 2 races include the Garanones Futurity, Subasta Selecta Futurity, Governor’s Cup Derby, Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap, Mighty Deck Three Stakes, Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Futurity and Remington Park Oklahoma-Bred Derby.
Gaining a new grade is the First Moonflash Maturity, which jumps from simply a restricted race following its first three runnings to a Restricted Grade 2 in 2020.
Also gaining a grade are the Canterbury Championship Challenge, Will Rogers Distance Challenge, and First Down Dash Handicap, which go from non-graded stakes to a Grade 3 designation.
Going from ungraded to Restricted Grade 3 are the Bitterroot Futurity, Black Gold 350 Futurity, Black Gold 440 Futurity, Boyd Morris Memorial Handicap, Denim N Diamonds Handicap, Easy Date Stakes, FL Lady Bug Stakes, Laico Bird Stakes, Mr Master Bug Handicap, New Mexico Cup 870 Championship, and Wild West Futurity.
There are also a few stakes that will have their grades lowered.
The Lineage Championship and New Mexico Breeders’ Championship will both move from Restricted Grade 3s to non-graded restricted races. The Lubbock Stakes will move from a Grade 3 to ungraded.
For more information and a list of the 2020 graded stakes, visit www.aqha.com/racing.
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