Over the next 10 weeks, compelling drama will be plentiful as the 2017 “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” begins in earnest as horses attempt to earn their way into the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands beginning with Saturday’s Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds.
To have a horse draped in the garland of roses while raising the solid gold trophy high atop the Kentucky Derby winner’s stand is the Holy Grail for horsemen around the world.
Restricted to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, horses only have one chance to win the Kentucky Derby, and it’s quite an accomplishment just to earn a berth in the starting gate.
Once a horse earns its coveted spot in Kentucky Derby starting gate, it, in most cases, will race the extended 1 ¼-mile distance for the first time. The combination of speed and the stamina required to complete the final eighth of a mile in the Derby often determines a win or loss.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Twinspires.com – a tiered point system that awards a sliding scale of points to the top 4 finishers in 37 designated races throughout the world – determines the 20 horses that will have preference to compete in America’s greatest race, the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) at 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May.
A similar series is in place for the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks,” the Derby’s companion event for 3-year-old fillies on May 5.
The “Prep Season” that began in late September concluded Monday with 48 early Triple Crown nominees grossing points.
Now, it’s on to the “Championship Series” in which the point values of races within the 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May will escalate by 5X or 10X, making these 16 races the most meaningful springboard events in advance of the Derby.
At series’ end, the top 19 point earners in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby” eligible leader will earn spots in the maximum field of 20 horses in the Run for the Roses.
The 20th and final spot, a.k.a. the “bubble,” has ranged from 10 to 32 points in the first four years of the point system, which debuted in 2013. When two or more horses have the same number of points, the tiebreaker is earnings in non-restricted stakes races then lifetime earnings.
Each race in the first leg of the Championship Series that starts Saturday and continues through March 24 is worth 50 points to the winner, 20 to the runner-up, 10 to third and 5 to fourth.
This Saturday’s Championship Series kickoff, the Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds, features likely favorite Mo Town. Winner of the Remsen Stakes (GII) in his last start, Mo Town makes his 3-year-old debut for trainer Tony Dutrow and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Mo Town’s main rivals come from impressive maiden winner Local Hero, Keith Gee Memorial Stakes runner up Girvin and Lecomte Stakes (GIII) winner Guest Suite.
CLICK HERE for a PDF copy of the entire Road to the Kentucky Derby Weekly Update for Feb. 25.