In a move that the public can better understand and follow Churchill Downs has dropped the graded stakes earning criteria in favor of a point system to determine which 20 racehorses will run in the Kentucky Derby, and which 14 fillies will run in the Kentucky Oaks. This move was made in hopes of gaining new horse racing fans.
Churchill Downs Incorporated Chairman and CEO, Bob Evans, formally announced the significant change during the company’s annual meeting of shareholders at the racetrack’s Triple Crown Room on the fifth floor of the Jockey Club Suites.
The new point system, now known as the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” will feature 36 stakes races overall and includes 17 marquee events for 3 year old Thoroughbreds that comprises a compact 10 week run up to the Kentucky Derby to be known as the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series”.
The new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series will be divided into two phases, each offering different points to the top 4 finishers of each race over a geographically diverse and historically significant paths. The “Kentucky Derby Prep Session” includes 19 races on dirt or synthetic surfaces of a distance of at least one mile and usually run between late September and late February. These races traditionally serve as foundation-building races in advance of the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” with points being awarded to the top 4 finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” is a three part-series of 17 marquee races on dirt or synthetic surfaces over distances of at least one mile and are traditionally run over a compact, 10 week run up to the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs officials will review which races will be included in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series annually. Plans call for the schedule to be announced each July.
After commissioning a poll of more than 300 sports fans nationwide that showed 83% did not understand how a Thoroughbred qualified to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs officials decided to move forward with a change in the system in hopes of gaining more fan interest in the sport of horse racing. This change will be effective for the 139th running of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade 1) on Saturday, May 4, 2013.
The Kentucky Oaks will also adopt a similar point system for selecting its maximum of 14 filly starters.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system was created to establish a clear, practical, and understandable path to the first leg of the Triple Crown, as opposed to the 185 grades stakes races worldwide.
For more information about Churchill Downs go to their website here.
Logo: Courtesy of Churchill Downs