New system for horses to qualify for the 2013 Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs announced a new point system for horses to qualify to compete in the 2013 Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013.

Phase one is during the early stages of what we consider the Kentucky Derby Prep Season. It includes 19 races on dirt or synthetic surfaces over distances of at least one mile that are typically run between late September of the horses 2 year old season and continues into late February of the horses 3 year old season. The lone exception is England’s Royal Lodge, an international juvenile steppingstone carded at one mile on turf at Newmarket. Points will be awarded to the top four finishers in each race on a 10-4-2-1 scale. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and $1 million Delta Jackpot (gr. III) are included in this division.

Phase two, the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, is a three-part collection of 17 marquee races on dirt or synthetic surfaces run over distances of at least one mile that traditionally occur over a compact, 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May.

The first leg of the Championship Series includes eight events in which victory is worth 50 points – the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, the Gotham (gr. III) at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs, the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, the Rebel (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park, the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park. Second- through fourth-place finishers receive a 20-10-5 point scale.

The second leg features seven stakes races – the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park, $2 million UAE Derby (UAE-I) at Meydan, the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby (gr. I), and the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland – that are worth 100-40-20-10.

The final leg is two “Wild Card” events, the Lexington Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland and The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, which offer some hope for horses to increase their point totals with a 20-8-4-2 scale.

The Top 20 point earners will earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if more than 20 horses enter the race (at least 20 horses have entered the Derby every year since 2004 and 12 of the last 14 years). Up to 24 horses may enter and four horses may be listed as “also eligible” with the potential of drawing into the field should any of the higher-ranked entrants be scratched in the days leading up to the race.

If two or more horses have the same number of points, the tiebreaker to get into the Derby or Oaks fields will be earnings in non-restricted stakes races, whether graded or not. In the event of a dead-heat in a Road to the Kentucky Derby race, those horses will divide equally the points they would have received jointly had one beaten the other.

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.

There is a similar point system for the 2013 Kentucky Oaks.

We are sure we will hear more from Kentucky Derby Tours horse racing fans about this new point system in the coming months.