Kentucky Derby: New Points Leader is Guaranteed

Kentucky Derby: New Points Leader is Guaranteed
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

Gone are the days when the winner of a $1 Million Juvenile Stakes would remain locked into a top 5 Kentucky Derby qualifying spot without having to race as often. As we know, the updated points system is now in place so get ready for the leader board to start moving. In fact, we’d better be ready to start seeing it move more than we have so far as the road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby opens a new chapter this weekend.  
So far we have seen a total of 19 Kentucky Derby preps. All of them have carried the same value for the top four finishers: 10-4-2-1. Although there has been some shuffling within the rankings the points awarded have never been large enough to create a significant gap between horses. Nor has there been an instance where a derby contender or hopeful made a huge jump in the rankings just by scoring a win. And my huge jump I’m referring to a superior leap, not a hop and certainly not a skip. Specifically, an instance where a horse that was trailing by anywhere between 25 to 50 points suddenly wins and lands inside the top ten.
If that’s what you were waiting for then get ready because on Saturday the first leg of the “Championship Series” kicks off with the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The points that are awarded to the top four finishers now rise to 50, 20, 10, and 5 so the opportunity to start making some noise from well off the contender list is open for business. And, the chances that a new points leader will move into position by Saturday evening is guaranteed.
As things stand right now Goldencents and Shanghai Bobby are perched atop the new Derby eligibility rankings with 24 points. But, neither of the two will be racing on Saturday. They will have their shot at climbing back to the top but under this new system they have also left themselves open for the unthinkable, a chance at missing the Kentucky Derby completely.
At the moment I have not spent much time considering this to be a likely scenario. In fact, I don’t think the odds of that occurring are very good. But, the chance is out there. The reason I mention it because my derby fever is rising with the amount of different ways we can reach a 20 horse field. If you’re struggling to find yours then let me know if the first Saturday in May seems closer after this weekend.
These Kentucky Derby preps have a lot of interesting story lines. I like the amount of potential contenders that will be racing but I’m also intrigued by an element of surprise that could surface. Particularly, as strong as contenders like Violence, Normandy Invasion, Oxbow, and He’s Had Enough appear to be, there will also be more than ten horses loading into each starting gate. The more challengers you face, the greater the opportunity for another Derby hopeful to emerge.
Now, it is definitely going to be more difficult then I may portray it to be but, what if. Yes, what if a horse with zero points finds the winners circle? Or, even more interesting, what if it happens twice? Of course I understand the odds are very long but I have to throw the scenario out there. We all love long shots right. So, why don’t we take a closer look and find out what kind of ripple effect it would create.
First let’s begin with the obvious; it would play right into the hands of Churchill Downs and their decision to revamp the qualification system. The race to the top 20 will still be as close as it was in the old system and there will still be a good amount of horses on the “bubble”. But, because we’re dealing with points instead of dollars, the intensity and attention amongst the fans might heat up.
So, let's just say that what I’m inferring pans out. First, let's look at what happens if a horse with zero points doesn't win but still finishes in the top 3. If a horse that has yet to score finishes 2nd in either prep this weekend he may not be as good as Shanghai Bobby or Goldencents but according to what counts, he’ll only be 4 points behind. If that does not make you think that things will start getting crowded in the middle of the points pack then consider this. If a horse that has yet to score a point finishes 3rd then they will have earned enough be tied with highly regarded contenders like Itsmyluckyday, Super Ninety Nine, Flashback or Revolutionary.
Now, back to my original scenario. What if they win and catapult from 0 to 50 points. I know that this may not be any different than when a horse went from having hardly any graded stakes earnings in the bank to practically starting in the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Let’s be honest, a big win can still get you in. But, what’s more interesting to me is the battle of securing your spot after the initial series of scoring over the first 19 Preps has ended. That time begins on Saturday and that is the reason I am pointing this out.
The ten point wins are not anywhere near as valuable as they were in the past. And, at this stage of the derby trail, for the very first time in a very long time, not one horse has secured their spot in the starting gate yet. It’s about racing top level closer to May than further away and we’re getting closer this weekend.   

As you can probably tell, I am very excited about this series. I think it will turn into a very stimulating turning point on the Kentucky Derby trail and get people talking about how many points it's going to take to earn a spot. I also believe the interest level is going increase as derby fever continues to rise each time the points increase. This series will feature a lot of leader board changes but it will also be the perfect set up for the major Kentucky Derby preps.


Your field for both Kentucky Derby Preps this weekend including points. 


G2 Risen Star Stakes | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt | Purse $400,000


1Proud StrikeG. Stevens S. Assmussen0
2Code WestM. Garcia B. Baffert0
3AgentR. Eramia J. McAnally0
4Golden SoulM. Mena D. Stewart4
5MyluteS. Bridgmohan T. Amoss2
6Palace MaliceR. Napravnik T. Pletcher0
7Hardrock ElevenJ. Theriot D. Banks0
8Ive Struck a NerveJ. Graham J. Desormeaux1
9Normandy InvasionJ. Lezcano C. Brown4
10OxbowJ. Court D. Lukas11
11BethelI. Diego G. Dorochenko0
12He's Had EnoughM. Gutierrez D. O'Neill6
13Circle UnbrokenL. Goncalves G. Simms0
14DepartingB. HernandezA. Stall, Jr.0
AESunbeanC. HernandezA. Stall, Jr.0


G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt | Purse $400,000 


1OrbJ. VelazquezC. McGaughey0
2Joshua's CompriseE. PradoB. Rose1
3ViolenceJ.CastellanoT. Pletcher10
4Majestic HussarL. SaezE. Kenneally0
5ElmutahidJ. BravoK. McLaughlin0
6Cerro (IRE)J. Rocco JrG. Motion0
7Sky CaptainP. HusbandsM. Casse0
8Speak LogisticsJ. RosarioE. Plesa Jr.1
9He's Had EnoughM. Gutierrez D. O'Neill6
10Falling SkyJ. EspinozaJ. Terranova10
11Sr. QuisqueyanoC. OliveroL. Oliveres0


About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer  


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State, I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. It was there that my attraction to the Sport of Kings began. In the spring of 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance, and the tradition continues annually because there is no other city in the racing world like Louisville, Ky., on Derby Day.

Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champion's trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. It begins when 2-year-olds hit the track & continues until the field is set, the picks are in, and the roses are awarded. 

Twitter: @thederbypost

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