A Grade I Mistake
Jon White from HRTV thought it was a mistake that the Hopeful Stakes isn't a Grade 1.
As I mentioned both on HRTV and Steve Byk’s radio show “At the Races,” I think the American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC) dropped the ball by downgrading Saratoga’s Hopeful to Grade II this year. In my estimation, it’s their biggest goof since all those years the Arkansas Derby was a Grade II until the committee finally saw the error of its ways and reinstated it to Grade I status for 2010.
In my view, the AGSC should have exercised more patience before demoting the Hopeful to a Grade II. Just from a pure logical standpoint, how can Saratoga, known for its 2-year-old racing, not have a single Grade I stakes race? Del Mar has a Grade I stakes race for 2-year-olds. So do Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. But not Saratoga? That makes absolutely no sense.
The Hopeful has been won by some of the finest Thoroughbreds in American history, such as Regret (1914), Man o’ War (1919), Whirlaway (1940), Native Dancer (1952), Nashua (1954), Buckpasser (1965), Secretariat (1972) and Affirmed (1979).
Even more recently, the Hopeful was taken by the likes of Gulch in 1986 (a future Eclipse Award-winning sprinter), Smoke Glacken in 1996 (another future Eclipse Award-winning sprinter), Favorite Trick in 1997 (the 1997 Horse of the Year) and Afleet Alex in 2004 (a future Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes winner). Just last year, I’ll Have Another finished sixth in the Hopeful. All he would do is subsequently win this year’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Grade I Kentucky Derby and Grade I Preakness.
Last Saturday, Starlight Racing’s Shanghai Bobby kept his perfect record intact with a 3 3/4-length Hopeful victory. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Harlan’s Holiday colt now is three for three. He also won the Track Barron Stakes at Belmont on June 27.
I, for one, would not mind seeing Shanghai Bobby or any of the other Hopeful starters go on to do well. Because if they do, I am hopeful that members of the AGSC will reverse course and reinstate the Hopeful to Grade I status.