Originally written on Sports-Glory  |  Last updated 8/29/14

Churchill Downs announced a new points system that will replace the graded earnings system to determine the 20 horses and the four also-eligibles that make up the Kentucky Derby field.

The new points system will start in 2013 with the Derby race set for May 4.  The new system is officially named "Road to the Kentucky Derby" and will feature 36 stakes races overall with 17 events for 3-year-old thoroughbreds in a 10-week compact run to the first Saturday in May known as "Kentucky Derby Championship Series."  The $1 million Kentucky Oaks that takes place the day before the Derby, will also adopt a point system for selecting its 14 horses.  

From the NYPost:

The new series, which begins this year, will be divided into two phases, each offering different points to the top four finishers of each race.

The “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” includes 19 races on dirt or synthetic surfaces over distances of at least one mile that are typically run between late September and late February. The lone exception is England’s Royal Lodge, an international juvenile steppingstone that is carded at one mile on turf at Newmarket. These races traditionally serve as foundation-building races in advance of the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series.” Points will be awarded to the top four finishers in each race on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

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 compact, 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May.

The first leg has a, 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) — witha 50-20-10-5 point scale; the second 100-40-20-10, and the third 20-8-4-2.

The second leg features seven stakes races — the Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park), UAE 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 100-40-20-10; and the final leg is two “Wild Card” events, the Lexington (Keeneland) and the Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (Churchill Downs), which offer some hope for horses to increase their point totals with a 20-8-4-2 scale. Missing from the schedule is the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, which is usually run in early April.

The Top 20 point earners will earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby. starting gate if more than 20 horses enter the race. At least 20 horses have entered the Derby every year since 2004 and 12 of the last 14 years. Up to 24 horses may enter the race and four horses can be listed as also eligible and would be ranked in order accordingly.

If two or more horses have the same number of points, the tiebreaker will be earnings in non-restricted stakes races, whether they are graded or not. If this program had been in place this year, Trinniberg would not have been in the field for this year’s Kentucky Derby because he had never raced further than seven furlongs in his career. It is the opinion of some that Trinniberg forced Bodemeister to run a faster pace than what he should have, causing him to tire in deep stretch and get caught by I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby.

In the event of a dead-heat in a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” race, those horses will divide equally the points they would have received jointly had one beaten the other.

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