On Dec. 12, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) applauded the upgrade of the rating of the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing to a Grade I Stakes, the highest ranking in thoroughbred racing.
The PTHA is a statewide organization representing owners and trainers at Parx Racetrack.
According to a release, the decision by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association earlier this month makes the Cotillion Stakes the only Grade I race in Pennsylvania, a distinction reserved for the most important races in the country that attract a high quality field of horses.
In addition, the Committee upgraded three other races at Parx to graded status, doubling the number of graded races at the track.
“Thanks to the introduction of casino gaming in Pennsylvania, we have been able to increase the purses for our stakes competitions and other races, which in turn has enabled us to improve the number and quality of horses and owners to the state,” said Salvatore M. DeBunda, president of the PTHA.
“The doubling of the number of graded stakes and the selection of the Cotillion Stakes as a Grade I race are evidence that gaming in Pennsylvania is having its desired impact on the horse racing industry.”
A study released earlier this year by the Pennsylvania Equine Industry found that more than 8,760 ongoing Pennsylvania jobs are directly or indirectly related to equine racing, a number that continues to grow as increases in purses and the quality of racing in the state continue to attract new owners, trainers, and investment in racing in the Commonwealth.
The study states that 89 percent or $167.6 million of funds directed from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund to racing operations is expended in the Pennsylvania economy, paying farmers, local jockeys and drivers, trainers, veterinarians, black smiths and trainer day fees.
“In 2004, the horseracing industry and thousands of related jobs in Pennsylvania were on life support,” said Michael P. Ballezzi, Esquire, Executive Director of the PTHA. “The recognition by the American Graded Stakes Committee demonstrates the rising status of Pennsylvania within the industry. It is also a major victory for both Parx Racing and the PTHA and a reflection of our commitment to continuing to improve our live racing product.”
With the additional graded races added by the American Graded Stakes Committee, Parx Racing is now home to six graded races:
- The Cotillion Stakes (Grade 1), a 1 & 1/16 mile race for three-year old fillies, is typically held the first Saturday of October with a $750,000 purse
- The Pennsylvania Derby (Grade 2), a 1 & 1/8 mile race for three-year olds, with a $1 million purse held the last weekend of September
- The Turf Monster Handicap (Grade 3), a five furlong race on turf for three year olds and older, with a $250,000 purse
- The Smarty Jones (Grade 3 - new), a 1 & 1/16 mile race open to three-year olds with a $300,000 purse
- The Dr. James Penny Memorial (Grade 3 - new), a 1 & 1/16 mile turf race for males and females three years and older
- The Greenwood Cup (Grade 3 - new), a 1 and ½ mile race for three years and older with a $250,000 purse.
According to the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the purpose of the American Graded Stakes Committee is to provide owners and breeders of Thoroughbred horses a reliable guide to the relative quality of Thoroughbred bloodstock by identifying those U.S. races whose recent renewals have consistently attracted the highest quality competition.
Racetracks may benefit from having their races graded, just as a graded win may increase a racehorse’s value. The Committee’s aim is to identify and assess those races, which over a stated period have attracted the highest importance and quality of field – quality herein defined in terms of the relative of excellence of participating horses.