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NTRA Thorouhgbred Notebook

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has had a remarkable 2008, with respect to both quality and quantity.
On Sunday, the Arlington, Texas, native broke his own record for most North American training wins in one year when Prophesy captured the first race at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. The win was Asmussen’s 556th of the year, breaking the mark of 555 that Asmussen set in 2004.
In addition to his frequent trips to the winner circle, Asmussen has gained much acclaim over the last two years for his work with 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, who, in September, became the first horse to surpass $10 million in career earnings and the first to top $5 million in back-to-back seasons.
“It’s had a lot to do with my background,” said Asmussen of his achievements with stakes horses and claimers, alike. “The success we’ve had with the Curlins and the Pyros has been fantastic. But we came from a small, midwestern track, and I like to think that we remember where we came from.”
Whatsthescript, third behind sensational European filly Goldikova and defending champion Kip Deville in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, will aim for his third victory in five 2008 starts in the Grade I, $400,000 Citation Handicap as the 17th Turf Festival begins Friday afternoon at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
The contention runs deep in the 1 1-16-miles Citation, however. The field of 10 includes nine graded/group stakes winners. Hyperbaric, trained by Julio Canani, has won three straight races, most recently taking the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita. Proudinsky finished third in the 2007 running of the Citation — beaten less than one length. Formal Decree, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, drew away to win the Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct by three lengths and will be aiming for his third straight victory in the Citation. Becrux won an allowance race at seven furlongs on the main track at Oak Tree at Santa Anita in his last start — his first for trainer John Sadler, who also trains Whatsthescript. A winner of more than $1 million, he was previously trained by Neil Drysdale, who saddled him to win the $1 million Woodbine Mile in 2006.
Also on the Friday Hollywood Turf Festival card is the Grade III, $100,000 Miesque Stakes, which is run at one mile. The Miesque, for two-year-old fillies, is headed by Landaluce Stakes winner Emmy Darling; Habaya, runner-up in the Jessamine on turf at Keeneland, and the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Internallyflawless and Century Park. The Hollywood Turf Festival continues on Saturday with the Grade III, $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express for older sprinters and the Grade III, $100,000 Generous Stakes at one mile for two-year-olds. Sunday’s Hollywood action is topped by a pair of Grade I, $500,000 grass events: the Hollywood Derby at 1 1-4 miles for three-year-olds; and the Matriarch Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile.

Saturday’s 20th running of the Grade I, $300,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile is the feature race of HolidayFest at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York. Expected for the Cigar Mile are Arson Squad, Bribon, Harlem Rocker, Kodiak Kowboy, Monterrey Jazz, Storm Play, Tale of Ekati, Visionaire and Wanderin Boy.
The seven-year-old Wanderin Boy caught defending Horse of the Year Curlin in his two most recent starts. Trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, he makes his Aqueduct debut on Saturday, in what is the biggest day of the track’s fall meet.
Arson Squad comes into the Cigar Mile after an impressive win in the Grade II Meadowlands Cup Handicap last month while making his first start for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.
Monterrey Jazz has not raced since capturing the April 26 Texas Mile, a race in which he earned a stratospheric 118 Beyer Speed Figure. Regular rider David Flores will travel from California for the mount aboard the speedy son of Thunderello.
Tale of Ekati, winner of Belmont Park’s Grade II Jerome Handicap, is no stranger to Aqueduct, where the three-year-old won the Grade I Wood Memorial in April.
Harlem Rocker, another three-year-old who won the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct back in the spring, also makes his Big A comeback in the Cigar.
Kodiak Kowboy won Belmont Park’s Grade III Sport Page Handicap last time out for trainer Larry Jones and will be stretching out for Saturday’s one-mile Cigar distance.
Visionaire is another three-year-old with Aqueduct experience, albeit on the inner track, having won the Grade III Gotham in the spring. He has since become a Grade 1 winner with a victory in Saratoga’s NetJets King’s Bishop Stakes.
Storm Play is perfect in three starts and will be stepping up to Grade I company for the first time.
Bribon, meanwhile, is undefeated in two Aqueduct starts, including a victory at a mile. And, like Monterrey Jazz, he also recorded a 118 Beyer Speed Figure in capturing another mile race at Belmont in June.Sharing the Saturday card with the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile is the 95th running of the Grade II, $200,000 Remsen Stakes for two-year-olds at nine furlongs and its filly counterpart, the 87th running of the Grade II, $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes. Both events could yield key starters in next year’s top three-year-old division races.
Likely players in the Remsen are American Dance, Awesome Mich, Hold Me Back, Idol Maker, Old Fashioned, Rip Rap and Viscount. Probables for the Demoiselle are Ain’t Love Grand, Bluegrass Princess, Renda, Sky Diva, Stormy’s Smile and Subprime. Sky Diva will likely be favored off her win in the Grade I Frizette Stakes at Belmont and her third-place finish behind Stardom Bound last time out in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on October 24 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
Aqueduct gets HolidayFest rolling tomorrow with the $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap for sprinters, and on Friday, the featured event is the Grade II, $150,000 Delta Airlines/Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile.

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association yesterday presented its listing of U.S. Graded Stakes for 2009, following its annual grading session conducted on November 24 in Lexington, Ky.
The Committee reviewed 746 unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000, and assigned graded status to 488 of them, seven more than were graded in 2008. A total of 13 graded races were upgraded, including six new Grade I races and seven new Grade II races. Ten new Grade III races were also identified.
Six races were upgraded to Grade I status for 2009: the Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and the TVG Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park, the Pat O’Brien Handicap at Del Mar, the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar and the Vinery Madison Stakes. at Keeneland.
One race was downgraded from Grade I to Grade II for 2009: the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.
Seven races were upgraded to Grade II status for 2009: the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile Stakes at Churchill Downs, the Colonial Turf Cup Stakes at Colonial Downs, the Fayette Stakes and Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland and the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park.
No races were downgraded from Grade II to Grade III in 2009.Ten races were upgraded to Grade III status for 2009: the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, the Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs, the Round Table Handicap at Hollywood Park, the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes at Presque Isle Downs, the Thunder Road Handicap and Daytona Handicap at Santa Anita Park, the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga, the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs and the Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa Bay Downs.
Four races were downgraded from Grade III to Ungraded status for 2009: the Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct, the Bay Meadows Sprint Handicap at Bay Meadows, the Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne Race Course and the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes at Turfway Park.