Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Post Time: Major changes in the Road to the Kentucky Derby

By Gene Kershner

With the 2011 Triple Crown season barely in the rear view mirror, we are already looking at significant structure changes for next year, starting with the first leg of the elusive thoroughbred racing series. Churchill Downs made an announcement on Thursday morning representing a major change in the way horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

The Racetrack will abandon the graded earnings criteria by instituting a weighted point system to determine which 20 horses will get into the starting gate for the Run for the Roses. The new point system will be branded as “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and will feature 36 stakes races overall , including 17 marquee events for 3-year-old thoroughbreds that comprise a 10-week run up to America’s Greatest Race on May 4, 2013, which will be known as the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series (see chart below).”

The 36 races will replace the approximately 185 graded stakes races worldwide that counted toward the Derby selection under the previous eligibility process. The 36 races will also be points-weighted based on four different segments of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The first segment will be 19 races that will constitute the “Kentucky Derby Prep Season.” These races will be at least a mile in length that typically ran between late September and late February. Points will be awarded in this segment to the Top 4 finishers in each race on a 10-4-2-1 scale.  One such race, the Delta Jackpot which in the past provided the winner with $600,000 of graded earnings and essentially gave a horse a gate in the Derby will only add a nominal total (10 points) to the winner who will need to add some points in the Championship Series segment of the races.  This segment also does not include any races from Saratoga, the Grade 2 Hopeful being notably absent from the Prep Season races, mainly because it is run at 7-furlongs. I’ll Have Another and Trinniberg both raced in last year’s Hopeful.

The next three segments represent the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The first leg of the Championship Series includes eight races that are traditional prep races for the major preps typically in the February and early March timeframe and are weighted on a 50-20-10-5 scale, much higher than the Prep Season and lower than the major preps in the second leg.

The second leg of the Series is made up of seven major preps run in late March and early April, such as the Wood Memorial, the Santa Anita Derby and the Florida Derby to name a few. The second leg will be worth 100-40-20-10 and represent the most valuable races to garner points for qualification. One past prep race that was excluded from the Series was the Illinois Derby, run at Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago.

The final leg of the Championship Series represents the two “Wild Card” events, being the Lexington Stakes and the Derby Trial, offering a last chance to qualify for points weighted at 20-8-4-2.

Generally I think the changes are on the positive side with the few notable omissions above (the Hopeful, and the Illinois Derby) and the curious inclusion of the Derby Trial. The Derby Trial is run one week before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill and is hardly a race that has produced Derby runners in the recent past.

The fact that none of the 36 races are under a mile in length has all eliminated horses that would previously generate graded earnings in 2-year-old sprint races. I could see adding a few 7-furlong 2-year-old races and weighting them less (say 5-2-1-0) to keep the interest in a race from Saratoga and possibly Keeneland early in these colts’ careers. The other race that possibly would warrant a 20-8-4-2 weighting would be the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, currently in the Prep Season category.

The point system is less complicated than the graded earnings system for the average sports fan, many who did not understand the previous qualification system that had been in place since 1986. The chance to build fans along the Road appears to be much higher with this structure and will generate full fields and great betting races, especially in the Championship Series portion of the point system.

The Kentucky Oaks will also conduct a similar series for selecting its 14 participants. If a filly wants to run in the Kentucky Derby, she can, but she’ll have to earn her way into the field by accumulating points against open company within the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Any points earned by a filly in the Derby series will be credited to her point total in the Oaks series.

The 17 races constituting the Kentucky Derby Championship Series are listed below:

KENTUCKY DERBY CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

         
               

Race

Distance

Track

Location

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

First Leg of Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Risen Star

1 1/16 M

Fair Grounds

Louisiana

50

20

10

5

Fountain of Youth

1 1/16 M

Gulfstream Park

Florida

50

20

10

5

Gotham

1 1/16 M

Aqueduct

New York

50

20

10

5

Tampa Bay Derby

1 1/16 M

Tampa Bay Downs

Florida

50

20

10

5

San Felipe

1 1/16 M

Santa Anita

California

50

20

10

5

Rebel

1 1/16 M

Oaklawn Park

Arkansas

50

20

10

5

Spiral

1 1/8 M

Turfway Park

Kentucky

50

20

10

5

Sunland Derby

1 1/8 M

Sunland Park

New Mexico

50

20

10

5

Second Leg of Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Derby

1 1/8 M

Gulfstream Park

Florida

100

40

20

10

UAE Derby

1 3/16 M

Meydan Racecourse

Dubai

100

40

20

10

Louisiana Derby

1 1/8 M

Fair Grounds

Louisiana

100

40

20

10

Wood Memorial

1 1/8 M

Aqueduct

New York

100

40

20

10

Santa Anita Derby

1 1/8 M

Santa Anita

California

100

40

20

10

Arkansas Derby

1 1/8 M

Oaklawn Park

Arkansas

100

40

20

10

Blue Grass

1 1/8 M

Keeneland

Kentucky

100

40

20

10

“Wild Card”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lexington

1 1/16 M

Keeneland

Kentucky

20

8

4

2

The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial

1 M

Churchill Downs

Kentucky

20

8

4

2

 

 

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

tagged

Horse Racing
comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement

About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

Subscribe

Advertisement