Hansen, last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male and winner of the
Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) at Churchill Downs last November,
sits atop the official Kentucky Derby Graded Stakes Earnings list that will
likely determine the participants for the 138th running
of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May
The Kentucky Derby field has been
limited to 20 starters since 1975, and graded stakes earnings accumulated in
prestigious races on “The Road to the Kentucky Derby” have helped determine the
field for the 1 ¼-mile classic since 1986.
Hansen, owned by Dr. Kendall
Hansen and Harvey Diamond’s Skychai Racing, heads the initial
list with $1.16 million in earnings. He’s followed in the Top 20 by Union
Rags ($830,000), Sabercat ($600,000), Wrote-IRE ($556,630), Creative
Cause ($488,000), Liaison ($375,000), Dullahan ($375,000), Excaper
($240,736), Algorithms ($240,000), the filly On Fire Baby
($211,729), Drill ($210,000), Alpha ($180,000), Rousing Sermon
($164,000), Prospective ($155,452), I’ll Have Another ($151,000),
Currency Swap ($150,000), Genten ($123,826), Battle Hardened
($120,000), Brother Francis ($120,000) and the filly Disposable
The initial Graded Stakes Earnings
List includes all 3-year-olds – colts, geldings and fillies – who were made
eligible to this year’s Triple Crown at $600 per horse when the early
nomination period closed Jan. 21. The late period for nominations at $6,000
each will close Saturday, March 24.
Sixty-two North American graded
stakes events for the crop of 2009 have been run since June – 35 for colts and
geldings or open company and another 27 for fillies. Of the 398 early nominees,
94 have earned graded stakes money thus far. Another 25 open company races and
17 for fillies remain to be run over the next 11 weeks in advance of Kentucky
A trio of graded stakes preps are
scheduled for the week ahead: Saturday’s Grade III, $200,000 El Camino Real
Derby at Golden Gate (1 1/8 miles over Tapeta), Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000
San Vicente at Santa Anita (seven furlongs) and the Grade III, $250,000 Southwest
at Oaklawn Park (one mile) on Monday.
Restricted to 3-year-old
Thoroughbreds, horses only have one chance to win the Kentucky Derby, and it’s
quite an accomplishment just to receive a berth in the starting gate. The North
American registered Thoroughbred foal crop for horses born in 2009 is estimated
at 34,000 by The Jockey Club, but only 20 are allowed to run in “The Run for
Twenty horses have entered the Derby
every year since 2004, and 11 of the last 13 years. The 20th and final
spot in the starting gate – a.k.a. “the bubble” horse – has varied year to
year. The final horse to make the field last year, Derby Kitten, had
$120,000 in graded stakes earnings. Two years ago, it took a record $218,750
for eventual fourth-place finisher Make Music for Me to make the
Kentucky Derby lineup. Over the last five years, the final horse to make the
field has earned an average of $132,650 in graded stakes races.
Graded stakes are considered Graded
or Group status assigned to the race by the International Cataloguing
Standards Committee in Part I of the International Cataloguing Standards as
published by The Jockey Club Information Systems, Inc. each year.
In the case of a tie for the final entry
position or the determination of all remaining starters, preference is given to
horses that accumulated the highest earnings in non-restricted stakes races. If
a tie still remains, the final spots in the starting gate will be determined by
lot or a “shake.”
For the first time since 1984, there
will be an “also eligible” list with as many as four horses eligible to draw
into the field until scratch time on Friday, May 4 at 9 a.m. ET.
In addition to Triple Crown
nomination fee, owners must pay $25,000 to enter the Kentucky Derby by 10 a.m.
ET on Wednesday, May 2, and an additional $25,000 to start. If there are less
than 20 Triple Crown nominees entered, a horse may be supplemented to the Derby
The Kentucky Derby post position
draw – a traditional “pill pull” in which horses’ entry blanks are pulled
simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine what stall a horse will break
from the starting gate – will be held at Churchill Downs on Wednesday, May 2,
at 5 p.m. ET.
The winner of the Kentucky Derby
will receive a gold trophy plus an estimated $1.24 million payday. A total of
$400,000 will be awarded to the runner-up, $200,000 to third, $100,000 to
fourth and $60,000 to fifth.
The 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby, which
is the oldest continuously held sporting event in America since its inaugural
running at Churchill Downs in 1875, is the first leg of horse racing’s coveted
Triple Crown classics: three races at three racetracks over three distances in
a five-week period. The 137th Preakness Stakes near Baltimore at Pimlico Race Course over
1 3/16 miles will be held two weeks after the Derby on Saturday, May 19. The
annual series concludes three weeks after the Preakness on June 9 with the 144th Belmont
Stakes – the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” – at New York’s Belmont Park.
A Triple Crown sweep – one of the
most difficult feats in all of sports – hasn’t occurred in 33 years and has
been accomplished on just 11 occasions: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant
Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway
(1941), Count Fleet (1942), Assault (1946), Citation (1948),
Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed
(1978). Fifty others have finished one win shy of the honor.