2012 Kentucky Derby will permit a four horse also eligible list

Churchill Downs will permit four also-eligible entrants to the Kentucky Derby beginning in 2012.  The new system will allow as many as four horses to remain eligible to compete in each race beyond the official time of entry and one or more of the “also-eligible” horses could be allowed to run in the  race if members of the original field scratch from the race within a specified period of time.

A maximum of 20 horses is allowed to compete in the Kentucky Derby, a 1 1/4-mile race for three-year-olds.

Entries for the Derby are due the Wednesday before the Saturday race.

Also-eligible horses would be permitted to compete in the Derby if there are scratches from either race prior to their shared official “scratch time” of 9 a.m. EDT on Friday, Kentucky Oaks day. That time is the beginning of preliminary betting on the Kentucky Derby.

In the event of a scratch or scratches from either race, preference among also-eligible entrants would be determined under the current eligibility system for the Derby. Horses with the highest total earnings in graded stakes races would draw in to the field for their respective race. If the total entrants for either of those races should exceed the maximum field size plus four, the four horses listed as also-eligible entrants would be determined by the same system.

“There has been significant discussion in recent years regarding also-eligible entrants for the Kentucky Derby, especially in light of the late scratches of Derby favorites I Want Revenge in 2009 and Uncle Mo from this year’s running,” said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs president.

“Also-eligible horses for the Derby’s window for also-eligible entrants to participate is just under 48 hours. We feel strongly that the deadline for also-eligible horses to join the Derby field must be set before preliminary wagering on the race begins. Despite the more limited window for also-eligible horses for the Derby, this system provides owners and trainers an opportunity to keep their Derby dreams alive that has never existed before.”

In the event of a scratch from the Derby field, horses in post positions outside of the scratched horses would move in a spot and the also-eligible horse would then occupy the outermost position in the starting gate. Also-eligible entrants are not required to compete in either race in the event of a scratch.