While dealing with the 'Great Flood of 2014', I have been behind in my reading but I finally got to the May edition of HoofBeats where there was an interview with the indispensable Nick Salvi, who, in addition to his duties for the three Gural-operated tracks, is the Vice President of the Grand Circuit. One of the topics brought up by the interviewer was the possibility of grading stakes races to which Salvi wisely demurred, simply indicating racetracks are reluctant to have their races designated anything other than top shelf.
Well, having been to the woodshed myself the last time I brought this subject up (foolishly naming specific stakes races), I am not about to do the same thing again, but the fact is all stakes are not created equal. I understand at many tracks, the amount of money being spent on stakes is limited, often a function of how much horsemen are willing to give out of their purse account to those 'out of town 'stables; sometimes limited by economic reality. In either case, no one wants to be told their investment in stakes goes to a third rate program.
That being said, I think all would agree not all stakes are created equal. However, allow me to offer a new approach in how to grade races. Instead of grading races based on the competition going into a race, why not look at who comes out of the race victoriously? Under this approach, a race would be graded based on how the stakes winner does the rest of the season against open company, averaging the last three winners of the stakes. This way, it doesn't matter how many top horses came to dance a particular dance, but the grading would be decided based on type of horses a stakes winner raced against the rest of the year.
For example, if over a three year average the winner of a stakes race earned $1 million (against open company) in the season, it would be a Grade 1 event; winner of over $250,000 in open purses would be Grade 2; winner of over $100,000 per season would be designated Grade 3; others ungraded; This way, while you may not be able to afford a race to get all the top horses to make an appearance, you may end up with a horse who races in a stakes race going on to take on the division leaders successfully the rest of the year.
Something worth thinking about.