A new system to decide the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby will require horses to earn points in prep races, according to a report by the Louisville Courier-Journal‘s Jennie Rees.
Under the system, 36 races selected by Churchill Downs officials will count toward scoring. Horses can begin scoring points as 2-year-olds. Previously, the Derby used graded-stakes earnings as a means of determining the field.
“People understand the Derby is the Super Bowl of racing, but they don’t understand what the ‘league’ structure is and what the series is to get there,” Churchill Downs track president T. Kevin Flanery told Rees.
“We think this is a very easily understandable series and season that the fan can follow. … This is about the future. This is about how people will find their way to the Derby in 2013 and beyond. That’s the exciting thing. People will have to make decisions about what the best path is.”
The scoring races are divided into four seasons, each with different point structures, Rees reports.
The prep season, from September until February, will award points to first- through fourth-place finishers in a 10-4-2-1 scoring system.
The next two phases include most of the traditional prep races and are weighted more heavily: Most are scored 50-20-10-5. The biggest, including the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby and Louisiana Derby, score 100-40-20-10.
There is also a last gasp “wild-card” round, scored 20-8-4-2, in the two weeks before the Derby.