06/22/2012 5:10PM

Letters to the Editor June 24, 2012


New Derby process creates its own set of problems

The news of the new point system for Kentucky Derby qualification ("Derby eligibility process changed," June 16) has been rightfully met with mainly negative commentary.

Key flaws include: (a) completely disregarding major 2-year-old stakes races, (b) forcing trainers to train for the Derby to gain points for entry, which is not necessarily in the best interest of the horse, (yes, some trainers tried to scramble for graded earnings, but good horses who had performed well in major big-money races were able to have a schedule crafted for them, such as Street Sense), and (c) the removal of the Illinois Derby from its position as a mid-major prep race, while races like the Royal Lodge Stakes and UAE Derby have received top billing (the Illinois Derby has produced more Derby winners than both of those races combined).

But perhaps the most egregious problem caused by the new point system is that it does not make the situation any clearer for the fan who might not follow racing that closely. In fact, a point system complicates it. It is a lot easier to explain that the best horses generally win the most money in racing than to say, "Well this horse needs to have more points, so he needs to race in the race that is worth more points than another race."

Yes, the graded stakes earnings system had its problems, but generally speaking, the horses earning the most money were earning it because they were good. Even horses who earned money but perhaps were not worthy Derby contenders were weeded out. And as for juvenile races with fat purses that help to fill a horse's piggy bank, if a horse races well enough to be the best of his generation at 2 years of age, aren't his connections worthy of being able to plan out a campaign that keeps a horse sound and fit?

This decision reflects a very Churchill-centric way of thinking. That Churchill Downs should be able to craft the road to the Derby is preposterous. They should be happy that they have the most important 3-year old race in America, and leave it at that.

Ben Garner - Brooklyn, N.Y.