08/27/2014 1:02PM

Few changes to Kentucky Derby, Oaks qualifying system

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs on Wednesday released the points schedules for determining eligibility to the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Oaks with minimal changes from the template established during the first two years of the system.

First implemented for the 2013 Derby and Oaks, the schedules use a graduated scale for allotting qualifying points for the respective races. Prep races deemed most important are given the most weight in determining the 20-horse cutoff for the Derby (and 14 for the Oaks).

The only substantive change from last year is the reinstatement of what now are the Los Alamitos Futurity and Starlet. Both races were used during the first year for the points system when contested as the CashCall Futurity and Hollywood Starlet at now-closed Betfair Hollywood Park, but both were dropped last year in something of a controversial move.

Churchill racetrack president Kevin Flanery said in a Wednesday media release that “the robust commitments by the team at Los Alamitos suggest a strong desire to be included in our series,” and that ultimately the decision was made to reinstate those races.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Both races will be run in December as part of what Churchill calls its “prep season,” with 10 eligibility points to the winner. There are 19 prep-season events toward the Derby and 17 toward the Oaks.

In all, 35 points events lead into the 141st Derby on May 2, with points awarded to the top four finishers in each race. The 16 most heavily weighted events are known as the “championship season” and are contested at later and more crucial junctures on the Derby trail; those races are worth 50 or 100 points to the winner. The 100-point races include traditional Derby preps such as the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, and Blue Grass Stakes.

For the 141st Oaks, which will be run May 1, there are 31 points events using essentially the same design, with 14 of them worth 50 to 100 points to the winner.

Both points series begin Friday, Sept. 5, with races at Churchill: the Grade 3 Iroquois in the male division and the Grade 2 Pocahontas for fillies. Both are prep-season races worth 10 points to the winner. Later this year, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies also are included in the respective prep-season schedules again.

Once again, Derby preps hosted by rival tracks such as the Sam F. Davis Stakes (Tampa Bay Downs) and Illinois Derby (Hawthorne) have not been designated by Churchill as points events.

Changes to the current points model have been debated in the industry, such as a way to allow fillies to make the Derby field while competing within their division along the way, but the status quo remains intact for the 2015 renewal.