The 2014 Kentucky Derby will use a new points system for the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
Churchill Downs will do away with the old graded stakes earnings system in favor of a new points system that will award points to the top four finishers. The points system also has a bias towards the races six to eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Big purse races such as the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Delta Downs Jackpot will no longer have much impact on determining the Derby field of 20. Minimizing the significance of such 2-year-old races and now only taking into consideration one turf race of the 36 possible stakes races eliminates the chances for many horses to get in the gate for the run for the roses from the previous 185 different races trainers could pick from in 2012.
The new restrictions on races will ensure that all horses which qualify for the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby have proven that they can compete in conditions similar to that of the Derby to improve the quality of the racing.
It seems that Churchill Downs is stealing a page from the Breeder's Cup Challenge series with their new Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule which is followed by the Kentucky Derby Championship Series and then the Kentucky Derby.
In the new system the top four finishers in the biggest seven races will earn Road to the Kentucky Derby Points on a 100-40-20-10 scale. The races include the six most high-profile Derby preps - the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland - along with the UAE Derby in Dubai.
Eight races held in the months prior to those seven stakes races will earn points on a 50-20-10-5 scale. These races have been viewed as preps for the final Derby preps, such as the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, the Gotham at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, the San Felipe at Santa Anita, the Rebel at Oaklawn, the Spiral at Turfway, and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park.
The two races run in the weeks prior to the Derby will award the four finishers points on a 20-8-4-2 scale. The races are the Derby Trial at Churchill and the Lexington at Keeneland.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby will be 19 races held between September and February will earn the top four finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. Those races include the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Delta Jackpot, and the Champagne Stakes. In the past, winners of the Juvenile and Delta have had a significant leg up in qualifying for the Derby, even though the races are run seven to eight months prior to the race.