The Road to the Kentucky Derby points system (Part 2)

Apr 06, 2018 Jennifer Caldwell/

On June 14, 2012, during an annual shareholder meeting, Churchill Downs Inc. Chairman and CEO Bob Evans announced that entry into the famed Kentucky Derby (G1) would be determined by a new points ranking system.

The old graded earnings classification was out, accumulating points in designated races was in.

The move was significant, signaling the first change in Kentucky Derby qualification since 1986. That was the year graded stakes earnings became the measuring stick on who would, or would not, enter the starting gate for the Run for the Roses.

Now, a series of races dubbed the 'Road to the Kentucky Derby' carry points, ranging from one point awarded to a fourth-place finisher in the earlier events to 100 points to the winner of a final major prep. Each year, the list of races may undergo tweaking but usually remains in the 30+ range. That is a vast departure from the 180+ contests that used to determine the field.

Churchill Downs officials also kicked off a 'Road to the Kentucky Oaks' that is based on the same premise.

Currently, the Roads to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks are divided into two sections: the Prep Season and Championship Series. During the Prep Season, each race is worth 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers except for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Juvenile Fillies, which award 20-8-4-2 points.

The Championship Series is further split into two different parts. During the first part, races are worth 50-20-10-5 points; the latter section sees events confer 100-40-20-10 points.

The final part of the Championship Series is made up of major events from across the country, such as the Louisiana, Florida, Santa Anita and Arkansas Derbys.

Churchill Downs officials continue to adjust the Road to the Kentucky Derby, updating the list of races as well as creating a separate series for Japanese- and European-based runners.

But that’s a tale for another day.

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