On Friday afternoon the American Graded Stakes Committee released its list of graded stakes races for the for 2023 season.
The list included five races that were downgraded from Grade I status to Grade II contests.
Included in the downgrades were prestigious NYRA races for older dirt horses- the Woodward Stakes as well as the Cigar Mile will now be considered Grade II’s.
Also dropping down from the Grade I to the Grade II status were the Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs, the Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos and the Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita.
The Woodward seemed the most surprising entrant on the list of newly appointed Grade II races.
Twenty Winners of the race have made their way into the Hall of Fame, including KELSO, BUCKPASSER, FOREGO, SEATTLE SLEW, AFFIRMED, SPECTACULAR BID and CIGAR.
But the Woodward has, to some extent, struggled in recent years as the NYRA racing department tried to figure out where it fit best
on the calendar.
There is a glut of late summer-early fall races for the handicap division, including the GI Jockey Club Gold
In 2006, the Woodward was moved from Belmont to Saratoga. The race was moved back to Belmont in 2021, trading
places with the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which was switched to Saratoga.
This years Woodward was Won by LIFE IS GOOD but the race drew only four horses and the three challengers to LIFE IS GOOD were not much opposition.
The Cigar Mile was inaugurated in 1988 and initially run as the NYRA Mile. Its Winners include; FORTY NINER, CIGAR, TONALIST and MAXIMUM SECURITY.
This years Cigar Mile was not exactly a tour de force as MIND CONTROL beat five others.
The committee did upgrade one race from a Grade II to Grade I level.
The Stephen Foster Stakes ping-ponged back to a G1, as the race had been a Grade I through 2018 when it was downgraded. This years Stephen Foster Winner was OLYMPIAD.
A total of 97 Grade I races will be contested in 2023.