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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Too many Grade 1 races

Recently, we've heard from a few high-profile owners saying there needs to be less horse racing as it is over-saturation of the product.  In a perfect world, they are right and it would be ideal.  However, less racing means less work for those of us in the industry and that is not ideal.

One way we can stop the over-saturation is to have less Grade 1 races.  In recent weeks, we've seen some soft Grade 1 events such as the Man O'War, the Eddie Read, the Prioress and the Clement L. Hirsch.  Let's take a look at these fields individually:

Man O'War at Belmont Park July 13: There were three Grade 2 winners in the field and one Grade 3 winner.  

Eddie Read at Del Mar July 20: There were three Grade 1 winners in the field, but two of them were overseas winners and neither one has won in this country while the other was the winner of the race (Jeranimo) who was 30/1 and finished 6th in last year's BC Turf Mile.

Prioress at Saratoga July 27: There was one Grade 1 winner (as a 2-year-old), one Grade 2 winner and one Grade 3 winner.  

Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar Aug 3: There were two Grade 1 winners including last year's winner of this race, but she finished far back while the other finished 3rd.  The field also included four Grade 2 winners.

This is just a small sample and these type of races should be more competitive with more higher class horses.

I feel there should be three changes that can lead to a big reduction in Grade 1 races:

1. Breeders' Cup Championship races and all three Triple Crown races do not need a Grade 1 designation -  All these races are recognized by all involved in the horse racing industry as top races.  There is no need to designate these events as even casual fans know these are the top races in the country.  This will eliminate 17 Grade 1 races.

2. No Grade 1 races for 2-year-old's - Winning as a 2-year-old doesn't mean greatness in the next few years and this is like comparing a teenager who was a great high school player, but never made it to the big leagues.  Let's make these juveniles prove they can run just as well in their later years before allowing them to win a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old.  This will eliminate 12 Grade 1 races along with the four juvenile Breeders' Cup races.

3. All Grade 1 races should carry a purse of at least $500,000 - Grade 1 races should be big events and if the tracks cannot put up the purse money then the race is not worthy of Grade 1 status.  This year alone, that would eliminate 35 races.

There are 111 scheduled Grade 1 races to be run in 2013.  With these changes, there would only be 43 Grade 1 races along with the Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup races.  A total of only 43 races would really give these races the spotlight and it should also lead to more top horses in each field.  Nowadays, owners/trainers can pick and choose races where they avoid facing top horses in a lot of cases and that is not good for the sport.

We have seen a "less is more" trend in racing as many top tracks only race four or even three times a week.  Only the NYRA circuit has consistently raced five times a week, but they did go to four earlier this year at Aqueduct for several weeks.  This is not ideal for those who are employed in the industry as this leads to less pay.  However, a reduction in Grade 1 races can lead to more excitement and hopefully more prestige than what many Grade 1 races currently hold.

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