Kentucky Derby preps have started
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

During the height of this year’s final Breeders’ Cup preparations the new Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks points system quietly got underway, with horses already accumulating points in hopes of entering the starting gate on May 3 (Oaks) or 4 (Derby). In fact, last weekend saw two scoring races, the Delta Princess for the Kentucky Oaks and Delta Jackpot for the Kentucky Derby.

In June Churchill Downs announced the new system. You may remember that in previous Kentucky Derbies, the field of 20 was comprised of the top earners of graded purse money from any graded stakes race. The 2013 Kentucky Derby (and Oaks) entrants will qualify by garnering points in a series of specific races leading up the the event. The newly branded “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series has four phases, staggering points through the run-up to race in a way that designed to award the most point to more traditional, high-profile last preps prior to the Derby.

Points are awarded to the the first four finishers, here are the phases and point allotments:

Phase Time Frame Available Points
Prep Season late Sept through late Feb 10-4-2-1
Championship Series Phase 1 late Feb through late March 50-20-10-5
Championship Series Phase 2 ate March through late Apri 100-40-20-10
Widlcard Races late Apri 20-8-4-2

View the full schedule for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks preps and follow along as the races unfold. We’ll be tracking the winners + providing you easy access to the charts for each race! And there’s always our Derby Prep Alert mailing, that will start with the Championship Series this year.

Jennie Rees lays out some of the more granular particulars here, for example what happens when there’s a tie in points and if/how Oaks points transfer to a Derby start (they do!).

According to the original press release the new system is aimed at creating a “clear, practical and understandable path” to the Kentucky Derby. According to Churchill Downs CEO Bob Evans, “We’re implementing a more fan-friendly, cohesive and simplified system that should create compelling drama and appeal to a wider customer base.” I personally never found the earnings systems hard to understand, but the audience they’re going for could possibly hook into this kind narrative more easily, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the more mainstream sports news arena.

It’s also not a surprise that the new systems had generated some grumblings among regular fans. For example I saw some Twitter noise this weekend scoffing at the Delta Jackpot having the same point allotment as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. And then there are the graded races excluded from the series… if you’re a racing fan in Illinois undoubtedly you’re not thrilled to see the Illinois Derby excluded.

How will the new system impact the field? The now defunct Thoroughbred Times applied to the new point system to Derbies going back to 1998 and, assuming 40 points as the cut off, found that four Kentucky Derby winners (Charismatic in 1999, War Emblem in 2002, Giacomo in 2005, and Mine That Bird in 2009) would not have qualified for the starting gate. I have no doubt that 1) there will be plenty of commentary generated between now and May 4 on the subject and 2) more than one clever blogger will compare the field that would have been under the old system to actual 2013 Kentucky Derby field.

Like it, love it or hate it the 2013 Road to the Kentucky Derby is under way, and we’ll help you keep track of it! We’ll start our annual Derby Prep Alert mailings with the Championship Series, staring on Friday Feb 22. Sign up now and follow the results for the 2013 Kentucky Oaks and 2013 Kentucky Derby with us!

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