Things are starting to heat up as the Kentucky Derby draws nearer. Yes, the Kentucky Derby is still two months away, but for many of the contenders it's only one or two more starts away. The Road to the Kentucky Derby points system kicks into phase two, the first leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, this weekend with the running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. and the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, La.
The new Kentucky Derby points system replaces the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season, that concluded last week, the top four finishers in 19 pre-determined races were awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively.
A total of five Grade II and three Grade III races comprise the first leg of phase two in which the top four finishers in the pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. The second leg of phase two begins Mar. 30 and includes two Grade II and five Grade I events in which the top four finishers in these pre-determined races will receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The series concludes with two wild card races in which the top four finishers will be awarded 20-8-4-2 points, respectively.
With 50 points on the line, a win in Saturday's Fountain of Youth or Risen Star could guarantee a newcomer a spot in the Kentucky Derby. However, there are contenders in Saturday's races that are already on the board and could elevate their standing on the points ranking with a top four finish. So, if you haven't starting following the Kentucky Derby Trail, now's the time.
The $400,000 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth is the first of the pair to run Saturday with a scheduled post time of 5:35 p.m. Todd Pletcher's Violence, who won the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity Dec. 15, will make his first start as a three-year-old. The son of Medaglia d'Oro was undefeated in three starts last year and is currently ranked 4 in the points standings with 10 points.