Horse racing: Prioress, Sanford stakes at Saratoga downgraded
The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association released its list of stakes for 2014 on Friday.
Of the 455 races that were assigned graded status, five on the New York Racing Association schedule were affected, including two at Saratoga Race Course.
The Prioress, for 3-year-old fillies, was downgraded from I to II, and the Sanford, for 2-year-olds, went from II to III.
Three other Grade II races in New York will be Grade III in 2014, the Go for Wand at Aqueduct and the Vagrancy and Dwyer at Belmont Park.
The La Troienne at Churchill Downs, in which some of the older fillies in the country have competed in recent years, was upgraded from II to I.
Rachel Alexandra lost to eventual Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unrivaled Belle in the 2010 La Troienne one year after winning Horse of the Year.
Unrivaled Belle lost the 2011 La Troienne to 2010 3-year-old filly champion Blind Luck.
Races upgraded to Grade II status for 2014 were the Azeri at Oaklawn Park and Sabin, Holy Bull and Swale at Gulfstream Park.
The top two finishers in last weekend’s Remsen for 2-year-olds at Aqueduct — Honor Code and Cairo Prince — are headed to Florida for the winter to prepare for the next year’s Triple Crown campaign.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said Honor Code will point toward the Florida races, but didn’t rule out returning to New York, where Honor Code has raced at all three NYRA tracks, for the April 5 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
“What impressed me the most was how he handled the day; he shipped over from Belmont well and broke a lot better,” McGaughey told NYRA. “They went three-quarters in 1:17, but he was right there. He made the lead, lost it and then refocused. They went the last part in 11 and change, and he beat a very nice horse who’d run twice since Honor Code’s last race.”
Honor Code is 2-1-0, having broken his maiden in a last-to-first effort going seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course and then finishing second to Havana in the Champagne at a mile at Belmont Park.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he was equally pleased with Cairo Prince’s effort in the Remsen.
“Honor Code is a nice horse, but we were giving him six pounds and to lose by a nose, we feel like we have the best horse right now,” he said. “He’s the real deal.”
Willet returned on short rest to win the $100,000 Touch of Love Stakes by 51⁄4 lengths Friday at muddy Aqueduct.
Willet, the 1-2 favorite, was fourth last week in the Go For Wand, a Grade II stakes. She dominated this spot on the class drop against New York-bred fillies and mares.
The 5-year-old trained by James Iselin ranged into contention with a four-wide move on the turn before kicking clear to her seventh win in 15 starts.
Ridden by Angel Arroyo, Willet ran 71⁄2 furlongs in 1:32.12.
Willet paid $3, $2.30 and $2.10. Miss Valentine, the 4-1 second choice, was a distant second, returning $3.50 and $2.50. Harbor Mist paid $3.20 to show.
HERE AND THERE
Former director of communications Dan Silver has returned to NYRA after just over a year as the director of racing operations at Penn National.
NYRA hired Silver to serve as director of television and interactive platforms on Friday. ...
Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has signed a lease-buy agreement that will revive the equine hospital across Plainfield Avenue from the Belmont Park barn area.
The former Ruffian Equine Medical Center will become the Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists, a referral and emergency care hospital, and is expected to open on April 1.
It will provide elective equine specialty services to horses referred by their attending veterinarians. Full emergency and critical care services will be offered by the Spring of 2015.