The official “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” will begin Saturday, Sept. 14 at the home of America’s greatest race as Churchill Downs stages the $200,000 Iroquois (Grade III) for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on opening weekend of its 11-day September Meet.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” a series of select races that award a sliding scale of points to the Top 4 finishers, has determined preference for its 20-horse Kentucky Derby (Grade I) field since 2013. The 1 ¼-mile classic for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds –which featured a $3 million purse in 2019 – will be run at the historic Louisville, Ky. racetrack for the 146th consecutive year on Saturday, May 2, 2020.
The total number of races in the primary “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series is unchanged from last year’s lineup with 35 marquee races scheduled. The Iroquois will again kick off the 19-race “Prep Season,” which features foundation-building races over a minimum of one mile between mid-September and mid-February. Points awarded during the “Prep Season” are worth 10-4-2-1 to the top four placings, respectively, except for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), which is worth twice as much (20-8-4-2).
In addition to the Iroquois and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, “Prep Season” races include the American Pharoah, Breeders’ Futurity, Champagne, Kentucky Jockey Club, Remsen, Los Alamitos Futurity, Springboard Mile, Jerome, Sham, Lecomte, Smarty Jones, Withers, Holy Bull, Robert B. Lewis, Sam F. Davis, El Camino Real Derby and Southwest.
The 16-race “Championship Series” comprise springboard events that often bring the 3-year-old picture into sharper focus. Most first leg races offer 50-20-10-5 points to the Top 4 finishers: the Risen Star, Fountain of Youth, Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby, San Felipe, Rebel and Sunland Derby. The most meaningful races are worth 100-40-20-10: the Louisiana Derby, UAE Derby, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and Arkansas Derby. Additionally, the Jeff Ruby Steaks and Lexington offer points on a scale of 20-8-4-2 to the first four placings.
In addition to the primary “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, there are two separate series that each carve out one spot for a potential horse from Europe and Japan.
Japan and European Road to Derby
The fourth year Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby series again features four races: the Cattleya Sho (10-4-2-1), Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (20-8-4-2), Hyacinth (30-12-6-3) and Fukuryu (40-16-8-4).
The third-year European Road to the Kentucky Derby again showcases seven races: the Juddmonte Royal Lodge (10-4-2-1), Beresford (10-4-2-1), Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère (10-4-2-1), Vertem Futurity Trophy (10-4-2-1), Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes (20-8-4-2), Patton Stakes (20-8-4-2) and Cardinal Condition Stakes (30-12-6-3).
This is the eighth consecutive year that Churchill Downs has used a point system to determine entrants for its famed Kentucky Derby. At least 20 horses have entered the “Run for the Roses” every year since 2014, and 19 of the last 21 years.
A similar series remains in place to qualify for the Kentucky Derby’s sister race, the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on Friday, May 1, 2020. As was the case last year, there will be 30 races for the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series – 15 “Prep Season” races, which starts with the $200,000 Pocahontas (GII) on Sept. 14 at Churchill Downs, and 15 “Championship Series” races.