LET THE MADNESS BEGIN

John F. Cox
By John Cox
Originally written for America’s Best Racing

LET THE MADNESS BEGIN

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

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-value on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Nine of those races started last September and spanned through the end of 2013. Those races are early, and don’t play a huge roll in determining the field. These races more just to give horses an opportunity to mature, because the colts at this point in time are still considered “diaper dandies” since they are still only two-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:

Date:

Race:

Track:

Points:

Winner:

9/7/2013

Iroquois S. (G3)

Churchill Downs

10-4-2-1

Cleburne

9/28/2013

FrontRunner S. (G1)

Santa Anita

10-4-2-1

Bond Holder

10/5/2013

Breeders’ Futurity (G1)

Keeneland

10-4-2-1

We Miss Artie

10/5/2013

Champagne S. (G1)

Belmont

10-4-2-1

Havana

10/6/2013

Grey S. (G3)

Woodbine

10-4-2-1

Ami’s Holiday

11/2/2013

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)

Santa Anita

10-4-2-1

New Year’s Day

11/23/2013

Delta Downs Jackpot (G3)

Delta Downs

10-4-2-1

Rise Up

11/30/2013

Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2)

Churchill Downs

10-4-2-1

Tapiture

11/30/2013

Remsen S. (G2)

Aqueduct

10-4-2-1

Honor Code

At the start of a 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 resume 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.

1st Half of Conference Play:

Date:

Race:

Track:

Points:

Winner:

1/4/2014

Jerome S. (G2)

Aqueduct

10-4-2-1

Noble Moon

1/11/2014

Sham S. (G3)

Santa Anita

10-4-2-1

Midnight Hawk

1/18/2014

LeComte S. (G3)

Fair Grounds

10-4-2-1

Vicar’s In Trouble

1/20/2014

Smarty Jones S.

Oaklawn

10-4-2-1

Tanzanite Cat

1/25/2014

Holy Bull S. (G2)

Gulfstream

10-4-2-1

Cairo Prince

2/1/2014

Withers S. (G3)

Aqueduct

10-4-2-1

Samraat

2/8/2014

Robert B. Lewis (G2)

Santa Anita

10-4-2-1

Candy Boy

2/15/2014

El Camino Real Derby (G3)

Golden Gate

10-4-2-1

Tamarando

2/17/2014

Southwest S. (G3)

Oaklawn

10-4-2-1

Tapiture

Once we hit late February and 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 20). Here is a look at the eight races that award the top four finishers with 50-20-10-&-5 points.

Rivalry Games/2nd Half of Conference Play:

Date:

Race:

Track:

Points:

Winner:

2/22/2014

Fountain of Youth S. (G2)

Gulfstream

50-20-10-5

Wildcat Red

2/22/2014

Risen Star S. (G2)

Fair Grounds

50-20-10-5

Intense Holiday

3/1/2014

Gotham S. (G3)

Aqueduct

50-20-10-5

Samraat

3/8/2014

San Felipe S. (G2)

Santa Anita

50-20-10-5

California Chrome

3/8/2014

Tampa Bay Derby (G2)

Tampa Bay Downs

50-20-10-5

Ring Weekend

3/15/2014

Rebel S. (G2)

Oaklawn

50-20-10-5

Hoppertunity

3/22/2014

Spiral S. (G3)

Turfway

50-20-10-5

3/23/2014

Sunland Derby (G3)

Sunland Park

50-20-10-5

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 colts are supposed to win, you never know when a longshot could sneak in and it 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 (G1)

Gulfstream

100-40-20-10

3/29/2014

UAE Derby (G1)

Meydan (UAE)

100-40-20-10

3/29/2014

Louisiana Derby (G2)

Fair Grounds

100-40-20-10

4/5/2014

Santa Anita Derby (G1)

Santa Anita

100-40-20-10

4/5/2014

Wood Memorial (G1)

Aqueduct

100-40-20-10

4/12/2014

Arkansas Derby (G1)

Oaklawn

100-40-20-10

4/12/2014

Blue Grass S. (G1)

Keeneland

100-40-20-10

There is one more sort of “last chance” race worth 10-4-2-and-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. (G3)

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 Running of 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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s