08/09/2013 4:25PM

Churchill Downs tweaks points system for Kentucky Derby eligibility


The points system introduced last year to determine eligibility for the 2013 Kentucky Derby will remain mostly the same for the 2014 Derby, Churchill Downs announced Friday.

Four races were removed from the points system, including the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs and the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, while two races were added: the Iroquois Stakes for 2-year-olds at Churchill and the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct for 3-year-olds, held just after the start of the new year.

The other races dropped were the CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park, a $750,000 race for 2-year-olds that will be held for the last time this year because of the closing of the track, and the Royal Lodge Stakes, a race for 2-year-olds held at Newmarket in England.

Left untouched was the overall structure of the points system, which awards 10 times as many points to horses who run in significant stakes races in the six weeks prior to the Derby than to horses running in the richest 2-year-old stakes in the United States.

[MORE: For a list of races on the road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby, click here.]

Under the system, for example, the winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile receives 10 points toward eligibility, while the winner of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby five weeks before the Kentucky Derby receives 100 points. (The Louisiana Derby is held at Fair Grounds, the New Orleans property owned by Churchill Downs’s parent company.)

Churchill officials continued to defend the structure following the release of the schedule Friday, pointing to figures showing that handle in the 16 races with the most points increased 7 percent last year from the year prior.

“We think those are powerful metrics, and we continue to believe that the system encourages meaningful competition with an emphasis on current form rather than past accomplishment,” said Darren Rogers, Churchill’s senior director of communications. “We’re trying to identify the best 3-year-olds to go the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles on dirt.”

The removal of the Derby Trial and a 50 percent cut in the points awarded in the Lexington Stakes, held at Keeneland two weeks before the Derby, significantly reduce the value of the races Churchill had called “wild cards” under the system. With the Derby Trial gone, a runner hoping to get into the field late can, at best, earn 10 points with a Lexington win, compared with 20 for a win in that race or the Derby Trial this year.

In the 2013 Derby, the last horse in the field, Giant Finish, qualified with 10 points. Orb and Verrazano had 150 points each.

The Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero is once again left out of the schedule, an omission that generated considerable criticism last year. Following the omission, Hawthorne, which has clashed with Churchill over its role as the owner and operator of nearby Arlington Park, moved the Illinois Derby to a spot on the calendar two weeks prior to the Derby and raised the purse to $750,000.

Rogers said he would not comment on any reason why a race was included or excluded from the points system.

“I can say that our team had some good discussions with shareholders, and that we deliberated internally,” Rogers said. “We’re comfortable with some of the tough decisions that had to be made.”

Churchill also implemented a similar system to determine eligibility for this year’s Kentucky Oaks. The Oaks system was tweaked as well, though to a greater degree, with a net loss of five races that will go toward determining eligibility, from 34 for this year’s Oaks to 29 for the 2014 race.

Steve More than 1 year ago
Churchill Downs is lucky enough to have the biggest race in Horse Racing and they have chosen to hold everyone else hostage
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
One word for CDI - "petty" !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Still the Illinois Derby gets shafted because Churchill Downs wants to punish competitor tracks not owned by CDI. Still they reward a Dubai race that couldn't produce a $35k claimer. Still is a stupid system.
linn davis More than 1 year ago
who are the idiots on this committee?
Raymond Hackinson More than 1 year ago
Horses that would have run in the CashCall will now have to find another venue. What I don't understand is the 100 point inclusion of the UAE Derby. That race has produced nothing the last two years. It is a pipe dream of the wildest proportions. Is Churchill and the points committee pandering to the UAE interest?
Alexander Danzig More than 1 year ago
Agreed. Omitting the Illinois Derby and giving 100 points to a race in the middle east usually won by four year olds is senseless. Until you realize that Hawthorne competes with Churchill's Arlington, and the sheiks are the Kentucky breeder's biggest clients.
Ann More than 1 year ago
4yos don't run in the Dubai Derby - but Southern Hemisphere 3yos do. Their year-older date is July 1 (South America) and August 1 (former British places), which because the seasons are reversed in the SH, corresponds to 1January and 1February in our climate. Yes, SH 3yos are 6 months older than NH 3yos in March, but they have to carry more weight to compensate for it.
Vince More than 1 year ago
If I read one more post about how it excludes fillies I am going to scream 1) VERY VERY VERY few owners and trainers want to enter their filly in a 20 horse calavry charge 2) Many fillies who have run would have been eligible under the current system . WColors won the SA Derby SSong won the Jim Beam ( now spiral) GRisk ran 3rd in the Wood Althea won the Arkansas Derby In the last 60 years only 10 fillies have even run in the Derby.. The setup of the current system is putting a point vale on all OPEN races that both 3 yold colts and fillies can enter,,,,,,to give any points on races that ONLY 3 yr old fillies can enter makes zero sense
not impressed More than 1 year ago
And the reason three of those fillies got the chance in the first place...DW Lucas.
mark oleary More than 1 year ago
what about the fillies? i see nothing in place where they can garner enough points. and if it means they have to run against the boys early to get points,it takes away the lustre and excitement of a filly in the Derby. lets figure this one out or the days of fillies like Winning Colors,et all are over!
Vince More than 1 year ago
winning colors wn the SA Derby , she would have been eligible serens song won the Jim Beam ( now spiral) she would have been eligible genuine risk ran 3rd in the wood she would have been eligible.
D'Funnybone More than 1 year ago
If an owner/trainer feels that their filly is good enough to run with the boys, they should run their fillies in the prep races vs. the boys to earn enough points to qualify to compete in the' Derby. The committee isn't going to assign points to races where colts are restricted from competing, especially a race that may garner a large point total to the winner whom may qualify off of that particular race. If a filly demonstrates to her connections that she is truly a top notch 3yo, her connections will find way to get that filly to the 'Derby.
not impressed More than 1 year ago
Problem is NO ONE does this anymore. You won't find any connections bold enough to start their filly versus the boys prior to the Derby. Which is a shame. You shouldn't HAVE to show up versus the boys prior to the Derby if they want to run.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Um, On Fire Baby ran against colts in one of the early Oaklawn preps a couple of years ago as a test to see if she was Derby material. Evita Argentina beat colts in the '09 San Vicente (G2), but she ran in that because she was a 7f specialist and there were no more 7f races for fillies after the Santa Ynez.
Mable Roberts More than 1 year ago
Absolutely hate this points system. We will see more and more flaws in the system as time goes on. Fillies should have the same ease making it into the derby as the colts do.
Vince More than 1 year ago
fillies do..run on open races and get points.........does it make sense to run only against fillies and accumulate points? same reason state bred races arent eligible.......
gary More than 1 year ago
If I was Hawthorne, I would run the Illinois Derby the same day as the Kentucky Derby and run it about half an hour before the Kentucky Derby (since no tracks run for the hour leading up to the Derby). It would cut into the handle for the Derby since there would be people in line to bet the Illinois Derby instead of just the Kentucky Derby. The handle for the Illinois Derby would probably be up since there are already a lot people at the track that day spending money. A win win for Hawthorne. And there isn't a thing CDI could do about it.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Agreed except for one problem: Racing in Chicago is at Arlington then (and there actually was one year when the old Sportsman's Park had the spring dates that the Illinois Derby actually WAS on Derby day years ago). Better and more realistic way to do it would be for Hawthorne to move the Illinois Derby to the fall as the last big-money race for three year olds on dirt and shift the Hawthorne Derby to the end of the spring meet as a $1 Million race for three year olds at 1 1/2 Miles on turf. Doing that sends a much bigger message to CDI.
Vince More than 1 year ago
what is the "message" exactly
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
"Basically, we can do it our way and don't need to be part of your stinking point system." A $1 Million Hawthorne Derby for three year olds at 1 1/2 Miles on the turf makes that race the richest race for three year olds on turf and likely takes horses away from the Derby into a suddenly very viable alternative that can be a race to shoot for on its own.
Will More than 1 year ago
and there it is
not impressed More than 1 year ago
This is a joke because fillies are still left out of the race. And this is a "fair" system? I call it a laughing system.
Vince More than 1 year ago
as i noted earlier , it does NOT leave fillies out Winning Colors won the SA Derby Serenas Song won the Jim Beam ( spiral) Genuine Risk ran 3rd in the Wood. These are the last top fillies to run and they ALL would be eligible under the current system
not impressed More than 1 year ago
Eight Belles wouldn't have and neither would have Three Rings and Excellent Meeting. Granted only one of those even placed in the Derby, but they never faced males prior. It's still a joke.