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Blog - EVENTS/TRAVEL

Honor Code (right) and Cairo Prince had an epic battle during the Remsen Stakes in which Honor Code came out on top (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

With March Madness officially starting this week and the Kentucky Derby prep season really beginning to heat up, I thought I would write a blog that will help make sense of the Kentucky Derby points system, with some similarities to the NCAA Tournament.

Let’s start with the basics. There are 34 races that carry point values on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The first nine races started last September and spanned through the end of 2013. Those races are early, and don’t have a huge significance in determining the field. These races really just give horses an opportunity to mature, because the colts at this point in time are still considered “diaper dandies” since they are only 2-year-olds. For this reason, we will call the first nine prep races the “non-conference schedule,” because while everyone is still very excited to see how these young horses perform, the races lack the significance of the later spring races, much like in college basketball.

Non-Conference Schedule”

At the start of the new year, the competition picks up a bit. Several contenders are settled into a given track which they will call home for at least a couple of months, with dreams of heading to Louisville for the first Saturday in May.

The next nine races are like the first half of conference play. Rivalries start to build, and horses are typically (but not always) stabled and racing in a certain region of the country. These races are significant, but still carry lower point value. Winning one of these races is not going to secure your bid to the Kentucky Derby, but it is certainly a good opportunity to build your résumé in hopes of getting an “at-large bid” in the event that you don’t win one of the bigger races, but maybe finish second or third.

First Half of Conference Play

Once we hit late February and then on into March, the stakes get higher. Winning a race that awards 50 points to the winner is like getting that big win on the road against your ranked conference opponent, because 50 points should be enough to get into the big dance (last year it only took 10). Here is a look at the eight races that award the top four finishers with 50-20-10-5 points.

Rivalry Games/Second Half of Conference Play

Finally there are seven races valued at 100-40-20-10 total points, and these are essentially the conference tournaments. While these are the races that the proven 3-year-olds are supposed to win, you never know when a longshot could sneak in and be upset-city bay-bay! Here is a look at those seven races:

Conference Tournament

Date

Race

Track

Points

Winner

3/29/2014

Florida Derby – Grade 1

Gulfstream

100-40-20-10

-

3/29/2014

UAE Derby – Group 2

Meydan (UAE)

100-40-20-10

-

3/29/2014

Louisiana Derby – Grade 2

Fair Grounds

100-40-20-10

-

4/5/2014

Santa Anita Derby – Grade 1

Santa Anita

100-40-20-10

-

4/5/2014

Wood Memorial S. – Grade 1

Aqueduct

100-40-20-10

-

4/12/2014

Arkansas Derby – Grade 1

Oaklawn

100-40-20-10

-

4/12/2014

Toyota Blue Grass S. – Grade 1

Keeneland

100-40-20-10

-

There is one more sort of “last chance” race worth 10-4-2-1 points, which is the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19. Perhaps you could relate it to a “play-in-game” for the Kentucky Derby, but only if there are horses in the race that really need those 10 extra points to put them in.

Play-in-Game”

Date

Race:

Track

Points

Winner

4/19/2014

Lexington S. – Grade 3

Keeneland

10-4-2-1

-

The Sunday after the Lexington Stakes is basically selection Sunday for the Kentucky Derby even though we already have a pretty solid idea of who is going to get in. Yet there are still a lot of surprises like injuries that can occur in the following two weeks that could keep a horse from dancing.

Some folks might argue that the “tournament” for horses might start earlier than the Kentucky Derby itself. My response would be that the Derby, like the NCAA Tournament is the center stage, where every team dreams of playing. You can’t win the tournament unless you get in, just like the Kentucky Derby.

All eyes will be on Churchill Downs for the 140th “Run for the Roses,” and I can’t wait to watch how the rest of this prep season unfolds to see just which horses dance their way into Louisville on May 3.

Image Description

John Cox

A graduate of University of Kentucky, John has varied marketing experience in the Thoroughbred industry—from Keeneland to a private firm marketing specifically to Thoroughbred Farms, his knowledge of the industry is a great addition to the ABRV team.

Image Description

John Cox

A graduate of University of Kentucky, John has varied marketing experience in the Thoroughbred industry—from Keeneland to a private firm marketing specifically to Thoroughbred Farms, his knowledge of the industry is a great addition to the ABRV team.

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