Churchill Downs has shown an eagerness to stimulate international interest in the 2018 Kentucky Derby through the creation of a path to the race for horses based in Europe, as well as the expansion of its current series for Japan’s top dirt horses.
Those initiatives and other adjustments to the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” were announced Aug. 31. The changes also include the addition of a lucrative Midwest juvenile “Prep Season” race, the Springboard Mile, and point adjustments within the “Championship Series,” that will reduce points for Turfway Park’s top Kentucky Derby prep race and points increased for Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3).
Since 2013 Churchill Downs has used a sliding scale of points awarded to the top four finishers in selected races to determine preference for its Kentucky Derby field, which is limited to 20 starters.
A year ago Churchill Downs introduced the “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby” to provide one potential entry in the Kentucky Derby for Japan-based horses. This year a path is being extended to European horsemen as well.
Much like the “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby,” the new “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” is a stand-alone series of seven races that is separate from America’s 36-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby” sequence. Only one position in the Kentucky Derby starting gate will be awarded to the horse that accrues the most points in the “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” and accepts an invitation to compete.
“With premier races for Europe’s top horses often staged on turf in the months of May through October, we felt it was important to work with our European partners to create a distinctive path for horsemen who are interested in the Kentucky Derby,” said Churchill Downs Inc. president and chief operating officer Bill Mudd. “Any European horse that intends to test the Kentucky Derby now has an opportunity to qualify for the 1 1/4-mile dirt classic by competing in the new series, which culminates with a trio of early-in-the-year races over synthetic surfaces at Kempton Park, Dundalk, and Newcastle.
“By working with great partners at the racecourses, along with the British Horseracing Authority, France Galop, and Horse Racing Ireland governing bodies, we’re optimistic this new series can add to the worldwide popularity of the Kentucky Derby.”
The “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” includes a top-level quartet of one-mile juvenile turf races that will award points to the top four finishing positions: 10 points to the winner, four points to the runner-up, two points to the third-place horse, and one-point to the fourth-place finisher.
The 2-year-old races are the Sept. 24 Juddmonte Beresford (G2) at Naas in Ireland; the Sept. 30 Juddmonte Royal Lodge (G2) at Newmarket in England; the Oct. 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère (G1) on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) undercard at Chantilly in France; and the Oct. 28 Racing Post Trophy (G1) at Doncaster in England.
Two one-mile races for 3-year-olds in early March over all-weather racing surfaces—the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes at England’s Kempton Park March 1 and the Patton Stakes at Dundalk in Ireland March 2—will award points on a scale of 20-8-4-2.
The series will climax March 30 with the one-mile Burradon Stakes at Newcastle in England, in which points will increase to 30-12-6-3 for the top four finishers.
Edited Churchill Downs press release