The purpose of the American Quarter Horse Graded Stakes Committee is to provide owners and breeders of racing Quarter Horses a reliable guide to the relative quality of Quarter Horse bloodstock by identifying those races whose recent renewals have consistently attracted the highest quality competition. The Committee meets annually to evaluate and affirm the relative quality of these races, and issues its collective opinion in the form of ranked Grades: Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3, with Grade 1 being the highest. Horses winning these graded races may reliably be considered as superior racing stock, and the breeding stock producing them as superior breeding stock. The committee will separately evaluate and grade restricted American Quarter Horse races.
Broad acceptance of the graded stakes system allows its potential use for promotional and other purposes. Racetracks may benefit from having their races graded, just as a graded win may increase a racehorse’s value. While the Committee recognizes that individuals and organizations may utilize grading for purposes beyond the Committee’s own, such uses play no role in the grading process. As was true at the beginning of the grading project in 1983, 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.
The Racing Committee approved a number of changes to the grading process at the 2008 AQHA Annual Convention, and this document will explain the reasons behind those changes within the context of American Quarter Horse racing’s stakes history. This guide is also provided as an aid to understanding the Graded Stakes Task Force's work.