Horse Racing Syndicates Discuss the New Kentucky Derby Points System
The Kentucky Derby, run on the first Saturday in May each year for the best 3 year olds in the country, is one of if not the most prestigious race in the world. Horse racing syndicate’s dreams live and die with the Kentucky Derby each year. It’s $2 million purse attracts runners from around the country and around the world. In addition, it brings together racing fans from around the world who dress up in classic Derby attire and enjoy the spectacle that is Churchill Downs on Derby day. This year will mark the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby and also a significant change, which is how to qualify.
In years past to be eligible for the Kentucky the top 20 money earners that entered would be accepted. Preference was given to those who also had the highest stakes and graded stakes earnings, with no also eligibles. After 138 years of using this system the Kentucky Derby committee decided to revamp the old system based on a horse’s earnings and created a new system that they felt was a more comprehensive and effective way to get the best qualified horses to the Kentucky Derby. There was some uproar and backlash from the horse racing industry, and industry that is slow to accept change, but overall it seems like the new system has a good model set in place with good intentions, but may need some tweaking down the road.
For the 2013 Kentucky Derby horses will earn points for coming in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in pre-designated races. In total there are 36 races that carry a pre-designated amount of points for running 1st through 4th. They begin with what is known as the Kentucky Derby Prep Season which has 19 races, which begin in the 2 year old year, late September and continue into the beginning of the 3 year old year in early February. These races carry points of 10 (1st), 4 (2nd), 2 (3rd), and 1 (4th). These races traditionally serve as foundation-building races that lead into the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, the next group of qualifying races.
The Kentucky Derby Championship Series is a three-part series of 17 races on dirt or synthetic surfaces over distances of at least one mile that are traditionally run over a 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May. The first leg, which mostly includes races that feed into the major Kentucky Derby launching pads, includes eight events: the Risen Star (Fair Grounds), Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park), Gotham (Aqueduct), Tampa Bay Derby (Tampa Bay Downs), San Felipe (Santa Anita), Rebel (Oaklawn Park), Spiral (Turfway Park) and Sunland Derby (Sunland Park), with a 50 (1st), 20 (2nd) 10 (3rd) 5 (4th) point scale. The second leg features seven stakes races: the Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park), U.A.E. Derby (Meydan Racecourse), Louisiana Derby (Fair Grounds), Wood Memorial (Aqueduct), Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita), Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park) and Blue Grass (Keeneland) that are worth 100 (1st), 40 (2nd), 20 (3rd), and 10 (4th). The final leg is two Wild Card events, the Lexington (Keeneland) and Derby Trial (Churchill Downs), which offer some hope for horses to increase their point totals with a 20 (1st), 8 (2nd) 4(3rd), and 2 (4th) scale.
In addition to the point system, there will be 4 also eligibles for the Kentucky Derby listed in order of points earned which will give them the opportunity to run if any of the top 20 point earners scratch. This seems more true to everyday racing, where also eligibles are listed if the race overfills and gives another horse a chance to get in if one scratches. Furthermore, some people may wonder how does a filly earn points for the Kentucky Derby because there have been 3 fillies who have won the Kentucky Derby. And the rule is that they must run in the same prep races against the boys in order to get enough points for the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby committee hopes to create new fans for horse racing by using this system. They are implementing a more fan-friendly, cohesive and simplified system that should create compelling drama and appeal to a wider customer base. Fans, as well as horse racing syndicates, racing partnerships, and trainers of the horses, will know exactly which races are included and what races matter the most based on a sliding scale of points. The committee also commissioned a poll to see how many people understood how to qualify for the Kentucky Derby prior to the new changes, and 83% did not know how a horse qualified. They hope that by simplifying the process with a clear distinguishable point system people will be more likely to be involved in the road to the Derby and end up engaging in the race itself with some knowledge of the horses and the sport.
It is evident that the Kentucky Derby committee is doing the right thing in trying to expand racing’s fan base and the quality of horses in the field. And it also seems like most horse racing partnerships would agree that this new system is a good one that may need races added or values of points for specific races adjusted but all in all it is a great way to get the average fan more excited and involved in thoroughbred horse racing.
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