Graded stakes race

A graded stakes race is a thoroughbred horse race in the United States or Canada that meets the criteria of the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA). A specific grade level (I, II, III or listed) is then assigned to the race, based on statistical analysis of the quality of the field in previous years, provided the race meets the minimum purse criteria for the grade in question.

The grading system was introduced in 1974. The original purpose of grading was to be able to readily identify the quality of races a horse has won for sales and breeding purposes.[1] A high grading can also be used by racetracks to promote the race in question.

In general, "stakes race" refers to the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay, which generally forms part of the prize money offered to the top finishers. Not all stakes race are eligible for grading. Notably, races that are restricted to horses bred in a specific state (e.g., the Tiznow Stakes for California-breds) or country (e.g., the Queen's Plate for Canadian-breds) are excluded, regardless of the purse or quality of field. Conversely, some races that are not technically stakes races (usually invitational races where entry fees are not required by the racetrack) may be eligible for grading if they meet the quality standards.


To determine if a race is eligible for grading, the American Graded Stakes Committee uses the following criteria:[1]

In 2008, the Committee implemented a rule requiring that toe grabs on the horseshoe, designed to improve traction, be no longer than 2 millimeters. This was in response to studies by Dr. Susan Stover showing that such toe grabs substantially increase the risk of catastrophic racing injuries.[2][3] They have also discussed a phase out on the race day use of furosemide (Lasix).[4]


There are four different levels of grading, from Listed at the bottom to Grade I at the top. The latter are higher-class races for bigger prizes for horses of the same age group (2, 3 or 3 and up) and may further be restricted by gender. The weight conditions of the races may vary provided they meet the Committee's standards to ensure competitiveness. Many grade I races are "weight-for-age", with weights adjusted only according to age and gender, and also there are 'set weights' where all horses carry the same weight (usually applicable when all horses are of the same age and gender). Furthermore, there are "conditions" races, in which horses carry weights that are set by conditions, such as having won a certain number of races, or races of a certain value. Finally, some graded stakes are "handicaps", in which an official handicapper assigns weights to each horse in an attempt to equalize the competition.

Note that all Grade I races must have a purse of at least $300,000, but not all races with such high purses are Grade I. For example, the racetrack may be offering a high purse to attract better fields so the race will be upgraded in future years. The grade level is assigned by looking at data that indicates quality of the field for the last five years. In order to achieve or maintain a Grade I, it is necessary to attract a competitive field over a number of years.

For graded turf races, track conditions (normally excessive rain) may sometimes force the race to be run on the main (dirt) track. If this happens, the race is automatically downgraded by one grade level for that running only. The Committee then reviews the race within five days and may restore the original grade. For example, a Grade I turf race that is switched to the dirt will be recorded as a Grade II race, unless the committee feels the quality of the race was sufficient to warrant Grade I.

In the United States and Canada, a graded race can be dormant for one year without losing its grade.

Graded stakes races are similar to Group races in horse-racing in Europe but the grading is more dynamic.

U.S. graded stakes races

Grade I (2017)

Race Track Month Furlongs Track Age Sex Purse
Acorn Stakes Belmont June8 Dirt 3 F $700,000
Alabama Stakes Saratoga August 10 Dirt 3 F $600,000
Alcibiades Stakes Keeneland October 8.5 Dirt 2 F $400,000
Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap Saratoga July 6 Dirt 3+ $350,000
American Oaks Invitational Stakes Santa Anita May 10 Turf 3+ F $400,000
Apple Blossom Handicap Oaklawn April 8.5 Dirt 4+ F/M $600,000
Arkansas Derby Oaklawn April 9 Dirt 3 $1,000,000
Arlington Million Stakes Arlington August 10 Turf 3+ $1,000,000
Ashland Stakes Keeneland April 8.5 Dirt 3 F $500,000
Awesome Again Stakes Santa Anita September 9 Dirt 3+ $300,000
Ballerina Stakes Saratoga August 7 Dirt 3+ F/M $500,000
Beldame Stakes Belmont September 9 Dirt 3+ F/M $400,000
Belmont Derby Belmont July 10 Turf 3 $1,250,000
Belmont Oaks Belmont July 10 Turf 3 F $1,000,000
Belmont Stakes Belmont June12 Dirt 3 $1,500,000
Beverly D. Stakes Arlington August 9.5 Turf 3+ F/M $700,000
Bing Crosby Handicap Del Mar July 6 Dirt 3+ $300,000
Breeders' Cup Classic (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 10 Dirt 3+ $6,000,000
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 8 Dirt 3+ $1,000,000
Breeders' Cup Distaff (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 9 Dirt 3+ F/M $2,000,000
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 7 Dirt 3+ F/M $1,000,000
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 11 Turf 3+ F/M $2,000,000
Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 8.5 Dirt 2 C/G $2,000,000
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 8.5 Dirt 2 F $2,000,000
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 8 Turf 2 F $1,000,000
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 8 Turf 2 C/G $1,000,000
Breeders' Cup Mile (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 8 Turf 3+ $2,000,000
Breeders' Cup Sprint (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 6 Dirt 3+ $1,500,000
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 5.5 Turf 3+ $1,000,000
Breeders' Cup Turf (Rotates location) Oct./Nov. 12 Turf 3+ $4,000,000
Breeders' Futurity Stakes Keeneland October 8.5 Dirt 2 $500,000
Carter Handicap Aqueduct April 7 Dirt 3+ $400,000
Champagne Stakes Belmont October 8 Dirt 2 $500,000
Chandelier Stakes Santa Anita September 8.5 Dirt 2 F $300,000
Cigar Mile Handicap Aqueduct November 8 Dirt 3+ $753,750
Clark Handicap Churchill Downs November 9 Dirt 3+ $500,000
Clement L. Hirsch Stakes Del Mar July 8.5 Dirt 3+ F/M $300,000
Coaching Club American Oaks Saratoga July 10 Dirt 3 F $300,000
Cotillion Stakes Parx September 8.5 Dirt 3 F $1,000,000
Del Mar Debutante Stakes Del Mar September 7 Dirt 2 F $300,000
Del Mar Futurity Del Mar September 7 Dirt 2 $300,000
Del Mar Oaks Del Mar August 9 Dirt 3 F $300,000
Delaware Handicap Delaware Park July 10 Dirt 3+ F/M $750,000
Diana Stakes Saratoga July 9 Turf 3+ F/M $500,000
Donn Handicap Gulfstream Park February 9 Dirt 4+ $500,000
First Lady Stakes Keeneland October 8 Turf 3+ F/M $400,000
Florida Derby Gulfstream Park Mar./Apr. 9 Dirt 3 $1,000,000
Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes Belmont October 10 Turf 3+ F/M $500,000
Forego Stakes Saratoga August 7 Dirt 3+ $700,000
Fourstardave Handicap Saratoga August 8 Turf 3+ $500,000
Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap Santa Anita March 8 Turf 4+ $400,000
Frizette Stakes Belmont October 8 Dirt 2 F $400,000
FrontRunner Stakes Santa Anita September 8.5 Dirt 2 $300,000
Gamely Stakes Santa Anita May9 Turf 3+ F/M $300,000
Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes Santa Anita June 10 Dirt 3+ $500,000
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap Gulfstream Park February 9 Turf 4+ $350,000
Haskell Invitational Stakes Monmouth July/Aug. 9 Dirt 3 $1,000,000
Hollywood Derby Del Mar November 9 Turf 3 $300,000
Hopeful Stakes Saratoga September 7 Dirt 2 F/M $350,000
Humana Distaff Handicap Churchill Downs May7 Dirt 4+ F/M $300,000
Jenny Wiley Stakes Keeneland April8.5 Turf 4+ F/M $300,000
Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes Belmont Park October 10 Dirt 3+ F/M $1,000,000
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes Belmont October 12 Turf 3+ $500,000
Just A Game Handicap Belmont June8 Turf 4+ F/M $700,000
Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs May 10 Dirt 3 $2,000,000
Kentucky Oaks Churchill Downs Apr./May9 Dirt 3 F $1,000,000
King's Bishop Stakes Saratoga August 7 Dirt 3 $500,000
La Brea Stakes Santa Anita December 7 Dirt 3 F $300,000
La Troienne Stakes Churchill Downs Apr./May8.5 Dirt 3+ F/M $300,000
Los Alamitos Futurity Los Alamitos December 8.5 Dirt 2 $500,000
Madison Stakes Keeneland April 7 Dirt 4+ F/M $300,000
Maker's 46 Mile Stakes Keeneland April 8 Turf 4+ $300,000
Malibu Stakes Santa Anita December 7 Dirt 3 $300,000
Man o' War Stakes Belmont May11 Turf 3+ $400,000
Manhattan Handicap Belmont June10 Turf 4+ $1,000,000
Matriarch Stakes Del Mar November 8 Turf 3+ F/M $300,000
Metropolitan Handicap Belmont June8 Dirt 3+ $1,250,000
Ogden Phipps Handicap Belmont June8.5 Dirt 3+ F/M $1,000,000
Pacific Classic Stakes Del Mar August 10 Dirt 3+ $1,000,000
Pennsylvania Derby Parx September 9 Dirt 3 $1,000,000+
Personal Ensign Stakes Saratoga August 9 Dirt 3+ F/M $750,000
Preakness Stakes Pimlico May9.5 Dirt 3 $1,500,000
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Keeneland October 9 Turf 3 F $500,000
Rodeo Drive Stakes Santa Anita September 10 Turf 3+ F/M $300,000
Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita April 9 Dirt 3 $1,000,000
Santa Anita Handicap Santa Anita March 10 Dirt 4+ $1,000,000
Santa Anita Oaks Santa Anita April 8.5 Dirt 3 F $400,000
Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes Santa Anita October 6 Dirt 3+ $300,000
Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap Santa Anita March 9 Dirt 4+ F/M $400,000
Secretariat Stakes Arlington August 10 Turf 3 $450,000
Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes Keeneland October 8 Turf 3+ $1,000,000
Shoemaker Mile Santa Anita June8 Turf 3+ $400,000
Spinaway Stakes Saratoga September 7 Dirt 2 F $350,000
Spinster Stakes Keeneland October 9 Dirt 3+ F/M $500,000
Starlet Stakes Los Alamitos December 8.5 Dirt 2 F $500,000
Stephen Foster Handicap Churchill Downs June9 Dirt 3+ $500,000
Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes Saratoga August 12 Turf 3+ $1,000,000
Test Stakes Saratoga August 7 Dirt 3 F $500,000
Travers Stakes Saratoga August 10 Dirt 3 $1,250,000
Triple Bend Invitational Handicap Santa Anita June 7 Dirt 3+ $300,000
Turf Classic Stakes Churchill Downs May9 Turf 3+ $500,000
United Nations Stakes Monmouth July 11 Turf 3+ $300,000
Vanity Invitational Handicap Santa Anita June9 Dirt 3+ F/M $400,000
Vosburgh Stakes Belmont October 6 Dirt 3+ $400,000
Whitney Handicap Saratoga August 9 Dirt 3+ $1,250,000
Woodward Stakes Saratoga September 9 Dirt 3+ $600,000
Zenyatta Stakes Santa Anita September 8.5 Dirt 3+ F/M $300,000

Sex: C/G=Colts and Geldings; F=Fillies; F/M=Fillies and Mares. If blank, the race is open

Grade I changes since 2010

The following races have been downgraded from Grade I status since 2010:

The Hopeful Stakes was downgraded from grade I to grade II for 2012 but regained the top rating in 2013[6]

The following races were upgraded to Grade I status since 2010:

See also


  1. 1 2 "Graded Stakes". Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  2. "Graded Stakes Tied to Adoption of Rules". Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  3. "Committee Calls for Ban on Certain Toe Grabs". Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  4. "Phase-Out of Lasix in Graded Stakes Discussed". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Blue Grass, Wood Memorial Downgraded". Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "Delaware Handicap, Hopeful Now Grade I". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 "TOBA Announces U.S. Graded and Listed Stakes". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Four New Grade I Stakes for 2012". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  9. 1 2 "2011 Graded Stakes: 13 Fewer Than '10". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 "Eight Stakes Elevated in Status for 2014". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
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