In our previous column we wrote about Kentucky Derby Prep races and the point system used to gain entry in order to run on the first Saturday in May.
Well, we forgot to mention the minor adjustments that were made to said system last September.
Churchill Downs Racetrack officials made slight modifications to the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Points will now be awarded to the Top 5 finishing positions in qualifying races, and the significance of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and select races traditionally run in late January have been increased.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of select races that award a sliding scale of points to the top finishing positions, has determined preference for its 20-horse Kentucky Derby (G1) field since 2013.
The expansion of points awarded in qualifying races has been implemented to grow Derby Fever for more horses and ownership groups, which could potentially increase field size in Kentucky Derby Championship Series races in advance of the Derby.
Most Kentucky Derby Prep Season races will now award points on a sliding scale of 10-4-3-2-1. Previously, those races had been worth 10-4-2-1 since the inaugural qualifying points system was instituted for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
Points awarded in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which ran in November at Keeneland increased from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 in order to differentiate what has historically been a high quality Grade 1 race from others during the Prep Season.
Also, select Prep Season races that traditionally serve as steppingstones to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series have been elevated from 10-4-2-1 to 20-8-6-4-2 in an effort to increase the importance and awareness of these races and to incentivize horses to potentially begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season.
The elevated Prep Season races are the Lecomte (Fair Grounds), Southwest (Oaklawn Park), Withers (Aqueduct), Holy Bull (Gulfstream Park), Robert B. Lewis (Santa Anita), Sam F. Davis (Tampa Bay Downs) and John Battaglia Memorial (Turfway Park).
“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May,” said Mike Ziegler, Vice President and General Manager for Churchill Downs Racetrack.
This is the 11th straight year that Churchill Downs has used a point system to determine entrants for its famed Kentucky Derby.
Twenty horses (the maximum) have entered the Run For The Roses in 21 of the last 24 years.
The same changes made to the Road to the Kentucky Derby have been made to the 32-race Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, which awards points to fillies to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks (G1).