American Graded Stakes Standings brought to you by Keeneland: A 1-in-2000 Chance
Of the 79 individual winners of American Graded Stakes run thus far this year, only 16 of those top-class runners managed to duplicate that feat with at least one additional win at the highest level. Thus it is quite an achievement to breed, raise, sell, or own one of those multiple G1 winners, given that there are 30,000 or so Thoroughbreds foaled in North America each year, and the pool of AGS races is open to horses from around the world as well. It's about a 1-in-2000 chance.
While there is no shortage of critics claiming the process of grading American stakes races is flawed, the system has worked pretty darned well since the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association started awarding North America's best, unrestricted stakes with a G1, G2, or G3 designation nearly 40 years ago. I think the following list of horses that won two or more AGS races in 2010 is an exceptional one:
Blind Luck (3)
Quality Road (3)
Champagne d'Oro (2)
Devil May Care (2)
Evening Jewel (2)
Gio Ponti (2)
Life At Ten (2)
Lookin At Lucky (2)
Richard's Kid (2)
Smiling Tiger (2)
Uncle Mo (2)
Not every multiple Grade 1 winner will be recognized with a year-end championship. Some, like Blame, Quality Road, and Richard's Kid, come out of the same division for older males. You could also include turf stars Gio Ponti and Winchester in that group, but they'll be fighting it out for an Eclipse Award in the grass division.
In the Paulick Report Forum earlier this week, Andy Beyer suggested that in the absence of head-to-head competition his Beyer Speed Figures are a better measure of a horse's true ability in determining championships than the number of Grade 1 races a horse may have won. I disagree, because I believe it is more about a body of work than one giant performance. But in all fairness, most racing countries determine championships not by a vote of journalists and racing officials but through a handicap weight determined by a panel of experts. It's not that much of a stretch from a speed figure number to a handicap weight, so perhaps Beyer is right.
Having stated my preference, however, it will be difficult to ignore Goldikova for her one awesome performance in North America this year while winning her third consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile over a deep and talented field. Some have said she is not a lock to win the Eclipse Award for female turf champion, given the excellent year-round campaign of Proviso, who won more AGS races in 2010 than any other horse whose name wasn't Zenyatta. It's performances like Goldikova's that begs the sponsors of the Eclipse Awards to consider voting guidelines (i.e., a minimum number of starts in the United States), because without guidelines the definition of what determines a champion is left up to a befuddled group of voters.