First let me say that I appreciate Mr. Ryan for encouraging this discussion. Several folks from around the Twittersphere weighed in, and although I am a bit late to the party, I had to elaborate on the conversation…
I see it as quite a barrier to entry for new fans to make sense of how the Breeders’ Cup describes itself as the “World Championships of Horse Racing,” when in industry terms, a horse is not considered an actual “champion” unless he or she wins an Eclipse Award…
The Breeders’ Cup has their idea of what the 14 divisions of championship racing should look like, while the American Graded Stakes Committee’s idea of classifying races differs quite a bit. And the descriptions of the different divisions do not always match up.
Two-year-olds, also called “juveniles,” can run on the dirt or the turf, but the American Graded Stakes Committee doesn’t classify 2-year-old races in terms of turf, dirt, route, or sprint, because there aren’t as many offered, I guess. But the Breeders’ Cup hosts four separate races for Juveniles, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Turf, and Juvenile Fillies Turf. The Eclipse Awards go to a Champion 2-year-old male and a Champion 2-year-old filly, but when it comes time to refer to the age group as fillies and/or mares, the term is shortened to just simply “Champion Older Female.” But explaining all of this to a newcomer is a nightmare.
And while I’m on my soap box, I have a question for the American Graded Stakes Committee: Do you not take into account the size of the Registered North American Foal Crop when you’re grading these races?
Here’s the quote on TOBA’s website introducing the Committee:
Why bother? Why try to remember which race is better than, or inferior to, another?
Because to improve the breed, to upgrade a broodmare band, to select a stallion, to understand a catalogue page, to evaluate a family – one must be able to recognize racing class.
– Kent Hollingsworth, Editor
The Blood-Horse, January 21, 1974
But shouldn’t class, or the quality of horses depend on the quantity of the crop? At it’s peak, the Jockey Club reported 51,296 foals registered in 1986. How many graded stakes races were approved for the next year? 425. In 1996, there were 35,366 foals born. In 1997, there were 449 graded stakes races. In 2006: 38,104 foals. In 2007: 474 graded stakes races. In 2016, the foal crop was 20,850. In 2017, there were 464 graded stakes races.
Breeders are loving it, because winning a graded stake has never been so easy. But are we really ‘recognizing racing class?’ I’m not so sure. Am I nitpicking these numbers a bit? Perhaps. Maybe you need to go to the foal crop from two or three years before the actual year of the decision to select the amount of graded stakes races…but it’s not going to be that different.
That’s it; I didn’t mean for this to become a segment of “What Grinds My Gears in Racing,” but I had to get these thoughts out there.
I’m sure I will eventually devise more of a comprehensive article offering insight from others, and perhaps even come up with some sort of potential solution to address these issues…But for now, thanks for reading! 🙂