The Road to the Kentucky Derby: Which Qualifying Races Matter Most?
The Kentucky Derby is the ultimate goal for many in the racing industry. Winning the Derby is not only a prestigious honor, but it can also be a lucrative opportunity for those involved. As a result, the qualifying races leading up to the Derby are highly competitive and closely watched by racing enthusiasts worldwide.
The horses with the highest point totals at the end of the qualifying races get invited to compete in the Kentucky Derby. But with so many races to follow, it can be challenging to determine which ones truly matter in determining which three-year-old thoroughbreds will earn a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
For some help, let’s look at some of the most critical qualifying races on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
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Overview of the Qualifying Races
The Kentucky Derby has a limited field of 20 horses, so a qualifying system has been established to determine which horses get to run. Horses earn points based on their performance in specific races leading up to the Kentucky Derby, with the top 20 point earners gaining entry.
There are currently 46 races that count towards qualification for the Kentucky Derby. These races are held in various locations across the United States and the world, including California, Florida, Kentucky, New York, and Japan. The races are grouped into three tiers based on importance and point value: 10-point races, 50-point races, and 100-point races.
The point system was adopted in 2013 and replaced the previous earnings-based system. The point system rewards horses that perform well in higher-quality races closer to the Kentucky Derby.
Under the previous system, horses could earn their way into the Kentucky derby contenders list by accumulating enough earnings from any race, regardless of quality. The new point system ensures that only the best-performing horses make it into the race.
The Most Important Qualifying Races
Several factors come into play when evaluating the importance of qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby. These include the point value of the race, the quality of the horses competing, the distance and surface of the race, and its timing with the Derby.
Some of the most prestigious qualifying races include:
- The Florida Derby is a Grade I 100-point race held annually at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. It’s open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds and runs at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
- The Santa Anita Derby is another 100-point race held annually at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The race is open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds and runs at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
- The Blue Grass Stakes is a 100-point race held at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky. The Blue Grass Stakes has a rich history and has been a critical race on the Kentucky Derby trail for many years. Some of the most notable winners of the race include Skip Away, Essential Quality, and High Yield.
- The Arkansas Derby is a Grade I race held annually at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is a 100-point race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. The Arkansas Derby has a reputation for being a challenging race, with its track conditions often playing a significant role in the outcome of the race.
- The Louisiana Derby is a 100-point race held at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. The Louisiana Derby has produced several notable winners, including Grindstone, who won both the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby in 1996. Another famous winner is Friesan Fire, who set a stakes record in the 2009 Louisiana Derby and became one of the favorites in that year’s Kentucky Derby.
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The Top 20 Horses Domineering The Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
Each year, the leaderboard gets dominated by a handful of standout horses who have proven to be contenders. The 2023 edition of the Kentucky Derby is no exception, with a strong group of horses leading the pack.
|2||Angel of Empire||154|
|4||Derma Sotogake (JPN)||100|
|10||Wild On Ice||50|
|20||Red Route One||33|
While no one can predict the outcome of the Kentucky Derby with complete certainty, analyzing the different qualifying races can provide valuable insights into which horses are most likely to come out on top.
Understanding the historical significance of each race, and the factors that have contributed to past success, can help fans and bettors make more informed decisions when picking a winner in the “most exciting two minutes in sports.”