Haskin's Derby Trail: Points of No Return

It’s starting to get hairy, folks. If there is one thing we’ve learned from the new points system, it’s that you’re playing with fire by skipping the 50-point races and going straight from the wee little 10-pointers to the big, bad 100-pointers.

By putting all your eggs in the one proverbial basket, in many cases having to finish first or second to secure a spot in the Derby, you better hope a) you don’t run into a monster like Verrazano, b) you don’t draw a terrible post, c) you don’t have a nightmare trip and get stopped at a crucial point in the race, and c) you don’t run your eyeballs out only to get beat two noses. The new-look Kentucky Derby doesn’t accept excuses.

It is obvious that many trainers are learning as they go along, but at what price? Or maybe they’re not learning. We won’t know until next year when they map out their Derby plans.

At this point, we really can’t say what the cutoff will be. Churchill Downs is estimating it to be about 30 points. That 30-point line, or whatever the line may be, could be the Derby trail’s 38th parallel. On one side is the comfort and safety of knowing you likely will be in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. But on the other side is enemy territory -- the cold, unfriendly environs of missed opportunity and second-guessing.

Getting through the 50-point obstacle unscathed and assured a spot in the Derby are Verrazano, Orb, Vyjack, Hear the Ghost, and probably Flashback. Again, that is using 30 points as the cutoff. It could be more or it could be less.

So, we already have a strong nucleus, as small as it might be. But what about those who passed the 50 pointers and headed straight to the major preps? It’s scary to think about it, but big-name horses Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary, and Normandy Invasion, who are ranked very high on most lists (especially the first two), basically have to finish first or second in their respective final preps to secure a spot in the Derby. A third for Itsmyluckyday or Revolutionary would put them right on the bubble at 30 points. And then it’s finger-crossing time.

Although it’s not likely to happen, Todd Pletcher, with Violence already gone and Verrazano in the Derby, could be in danger of losing three more horses if Revolutionary, Palace Malice, and Overanalyze fail to finish in the top two in their final preps. Even last year’s 2-year-old champion, Shanghai Bobby, is not yet guaranteed a spot with one race left. Again, most of those horses should run well enough to qualify, but you can never take anything for granted in racing, and the new points system is very unforgiving if you should make even the slightest mistake.

That is the nature of the new beast that has been created, which in the long run will cull out the weak. The feeling here is that the vast majority of pretenders will be weeded out, and the field assembled will be deeper than any we’ve ever seen, consisting of nothing but horses who are in top form. It is true that, as Wayne Lukas says, the point system does not reward body of work, but the object of trainers with top-class 3-year-olds has always been to have them peaking in April and May. And with the new system, they had better figure out how to accomplish that. No more hot-shot 2-year-olds or early 3-year-olds coasting through March and April, knowing they’re already in the Derby.

There are a number of promising, but late-developing 3-year-olds who already are down to one shot to get in the Derby. If they finish first or second in their 100-point prep, they get in at the last minute, while keeping more experienced horses out. If they don’t, it’s on to Baltimore or New York. These new faces include Treasury Bill, Code West, Rydilluc, Departing, Shakin It Up, Elnaawi, Ground Transport, Mr. Palmer, War Academy, and My Lute to name a few.

For the trainers who skipped the 50-point races, some will second-guess their decision, while others more philosophical will let fate dictate whether they get in the Derby or not. They took what they thought was the best course of action and let it go at that. Still others who missed out in the final prep and are desperate to get in the Derby, might try to sneak in the Lexington Stakes or Derby Trial to get enough points to put them over the top.

So, as the 100-point races approach, it’s now or never. Do or die. It’s time for sweating bullets. You have put all your eggs in one basket and are skating on thin ice and playing with fire. On race day, you will be as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. If you’re waiting for your ship to come in, but that ship has sailed, remember, you reap what you sow. If, in the end, you get caught with your pants down and miss by a hair, take it like a man and lick your wounds. No use crying over spilled milk; there’s always next year. Remember, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.   


Leave a Comment:


Hopefully, no eggs are broken.

12 Mar 2013 2:03 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I love the new system and eventuallly trainers and owners will have it all figured out for the bes tpath to take. For the first time in years I'm not worried about who will get in and who won't. Whoever gets the job done as a 3yo will be in, and we should have more peaking runners. It will be a good Derby. Great article. That last paragraph is a humdinger full of wisdom.

12 Mar 2013 2:12 PM
Mary Adkins

Not sure I care much for this point system at all even though I thought I would be originally. I believe I see trainers pushing horses and running them in races that they might not have just to get the points. I guess time will tell but I also think there are too many good horses that will never make it in and probably should have

12 Mar 2013 2:12 PM
Pedigree Ann

The points will come into consideration only if there are more than 20 entered. And there will be injuries among the higher point earners, we know that there will. This is a year of experiment, so it is very difficult to make predictions as to what level of points will be required.

12 Mar 2013 2:58 PM

steve good point about point hunting the lexington and derby trial to qualify for the derby.. i would throw horses out of my derby exacta that ran in those races. that's desperation!

12 Mar 2013 3:05 PM
Rusty Weisner

Steve Haskin,

You're beating a dead horse there at the end.

12 Mar 2013 3:42 PM
Rusty Weisner


Magyar vagy?

What's Overdose up to these days?

12 Mar 2013 3:45 PM

The days of trainers having 5 horses in the Derby might just be over as dollars no longer rule. The new system might just be an equalizer for smaller stables.

Churchill Downs will no doubt be demonized for the new system just a the Board of the Breeder Cup is now facing litigations over its Lasix policy.

12 Mar 2013 4:33 PM


No more hot-shot 2-year-olds or early 3-year-olds coasting through March and April, knowing they’re already in the Derby.

Well received, just a few examples from 2012 Derby field, Liaison, Sabercat, ad Trinniberg getting in by only running in sprint races.

12 Mar 2013 4:36 PM

Those broken eggs are gonna leave some promoters with eggs all over their faces.

Graded Earnings was a common sense system that never failed ...and talking about eggs, those chicken will be coming home to roost soon.

12 Mar 2013 4:52 PM

I'd like to see a list of horses that wouldn't have made it in the Derby with the new points system that hit the board. I know Summer Bird finished 6th in the Derby after he finished strongly in the Arkansas Derby and he turned out to be the three-year-old champion. Giacomo had the two-year-old foundation but with the lack of points in those races he wouldn't have got in based on his three-year-old results and he won the Derby. Take into account Spanish Chestnut who was a sprinter that shouldn't have made it in and Giacomo doesn't win the Derby and a horse with more tactical speed like Afleet Alex or Closing Argument (I believe he would have got in) would have won. I think they should do away with the auxiliary gate. Or limit the field to the maximum amount of horses a Triple Crown winner has faced (it may have been 19 I don't know) so the pretenders don't get in. I think the points system has trainers scrambling rather than mapping out a nice plan to win the Derby. Nafzger would probably scoff at the new system although his horses would have likely made it in despite losing the Blue Grass Stakes in their final preps. D.Wayne Lukas can still put his horse in all the high point races and try to accumulate enough to get in, no different than earnings. However he must do it in a shorter time period rather than start from age two. I notice Steve that you like the old school approach and are always quick to applaud a horse who begins the year in a sprint, but that may go by the wayside if there are no points to be had, better to be safe than sorry. Afleet Alex starting in the Mountain Valley, Creative Cause in the San Vicente, they both got to the Derby in peak form. Dullahan started the year in the Palm Beach on turf. Paddy O' Prado in a MSW on turf before breaking his maiden in the Palm Beach. Both were good for show tickets in the Derby. RYDILLUC will have to hope he can perform like the previous two in his final prep to make it in the Derby. Leaving room for a bounce in the Derby for plenty of horses who must win a huge possibility.

I like a point system better than straight graded earnings. However, I don't think they should have just randomly assigned point values to races. The Tampa Bay Derby has produced 2 Derby winners since 2007 and it's only worth 50 points. The same as the Risen Star which has produced 0 Derby winners EVER. And how and the heck is the UAE Derby worth 100 points? It's not even run on dirt! If it's 100 points the Santa Anita Derby, the Arkansas Derby and the Florida Derby need to be 200 point races because they have provided us with 6 of the last 9 winners of the Kentucky Derby. The Louisiana Derby no longer deserves to be mentioned along with those three either. The Blue Grass and The Wood Memorial can get a bump to 150. Most (recent) Derby winners come of losses in one of those 5 races (sometimes wins) So I think it should be important to get more than just the top two from the Big 5 and then some scrums that managed to pick up points here and there along the way.

10 point races such as the Breeders' Futurity, Champagne, CashCall (Hollywood) Futurity, and the Holy Bull have consistently produced Derby winners. Not too mention races that don't even have points such as the Hopeful for two-year-olds, and the San Vicente for those wanting to start the year in a sprint. Meanwhile 50 point races like the Sunland Derby, Spiral, have had 1 Derby winner so they give them 50 points. The Risen star and the Gotham are too early in the year for 50 point designation and the former gives us no winners while the latter is just a prep. Any race ran at a distance less than a mile or on a surface other than dirt should receive less points, and the earlier in the season the races are the less points they should be worth. However, taking out the possibility to accrue any points at all in said races (although synthetic seems to have been shown the love) shouldn't be the case as they are attracting future stars and should be given the attention they deserve. They should be putting an emphasis on which races are producing the best horses and not just putting 100 points on all the logical final preps. The UAE Derby is not on the path to the Kentucky Derby, at least not like the Florida Derby is or the Wood Memorial has been. The point system also has horses being placed in races where they think they can get the most points as well, just look at the Risen Star a 50 point race attracted more than the starting gate could handle with absolutely no stars. However the Tampa Bay Derby with a beast like VERRAZANO assured the 50 points trainers were looking at FALLING SKY and wondering if they could outrun him for 2nd. The Rebel will be a full field and have lots of horses that don't belong, and OXBOW, making another start because he missed out on points in the Risen Star and needs to make up some ground before the all or nothing 100 point race. Obviously D.Wayne Lukas has the right idea and is chipping away at the points starting his horse in a 10 point race and 2 50 point races and then likely a 100 point race, he'll get his horse to the Derby provided he runs to form in one of his two remaining races. If not he still has the 20 point "Wild Card" races to get him in.

It's crazy and needs revamped. They need to look at the facts and not just what happened in 2011 and 2009.

The Hopeful has produced three TRIPLE CROWN winners (Affirmed, Secretariat, Whirlaway) and it doesn't garner any points because it's the first Grade 1 of the season for two-year-olds?

If Shanghai Bobby doesn't get in the Derby despite winning the Hopeful, the Champagne, and the BC Juvenile, that would make the point system a failure in year one. Maybe they'll institute a "Win and you're IN" type system next year...

12 Mar 2013 5:02 PM
carol in utah

What about Newmarket?  Seems that not many will come from that either...how about they got to run on this continent?

12 Mar 2013 5:38 PM

But the graded earnings system has failed.  That's why we're trying a point system now...points earned as a 3 year old. Europe has had a point system for years, and it's worked well.

And trainers knew before the start of the year which races would count...that was the time to work out a decent schedule.

While Goldencents came in 4th in the San Felipe, don't forget, he already has 24 points.

I realize horses are not machines, and they cannot always be expected to be in a planned race.  Life happens.  Situations like that are dealt with every year, whether there's a $$ system or a point system.

I still prefer a point system.  I think they'll need to hone it for next year.  It's not as though they took the time to sort out G1,G2,and G3 races in assigning the points...or did they?

12 Mar 2013 6:25 PM

It would be cool to see how previous derby fields would have formed in previous years using the current formula. For example any derby winners which would've missed the derby starting gate under the new points system?

12 Mar 2013 6:37 PM
anita b

Hello Steve,

 You need to write an aricle about Derby winners who would NEVER made it to the starting gate because of the point system. Please.

I think that the winner (colt and filly) of the Breeder's Cup win 50 points; same with Remsen. I don't like this system now--maybe after it is "tweaked" a bit it may be better. thanks, Steve

12 Mar 2013 7:05 PM

The new point system is for the top 15 only then the final 5 plus AE's will be done with graded money.

The system is not perfect but it eliminated the win and you're in Delta Jackpot and eliminated restricted filly earnings. Good starting point.

12 Mar 2013 7:12 PM
Old Old Cat

Another thought provoking column.  I think your bloggers as a group have brought up the most intelligent and informed comments I have ever seen on any blog.  They have obviously studied the situation, and IMO more thoroughly than the derby group who came up with the idea.  Hopefully the committee will look at their mistakes, realize that they are mistakes, and make improvements.  So far the chatter I hear from them is that they have formed the perfect series.

I think what you and your bloggers are pointing out is that the owners and trainers are placing horses (still babys) in situations to attain points, rather than training them to increase their stamina and maintain their health.

I'm certain the list of non-qualifiers will be a fun thing to talk about, along with the breakdowns from trainers trying too hard to qualify.

You certainly have a lot to write about this year...

12 Mar 2013 7:27 PM


My point, exactly.

Where is Violence? Oh, right - he was urged to run as fast as he possibly could, first time out as a three year old, off a layoff and is another broken egg. Perhaps M. Pletcher learned something? Naaaaaah!

Perhaps this whole KY Derby mania is bad for the sport.

12 Mar 2013 7:36 PM

I'm new to following racing closely, but I have to say that this system, while probably needing tweaking seems much better than earnings. I really like Shanghai Bobby and I support him but how's much credibility should his 2yr old campaign get? If he can't rack up enough points to get in by performing well in a race or two as a three year old, he doesn't deserve it.  Seems like the problem is more with trainers who are forced to make tougher decisions on what races to enter. I like it, once they possible re-weight some of the races.

Change is always hard, and it usually takes a period of time to adapt.

12 Mar 2013 7:51 PM

TC's last post.....soon to be a 12 part mini- series...

12 Mar 2013 8:03 PM
Keep your powder dry

The current points system seems a tad overdone. Simply cutting 2YO earnings in half probably would have achieved much of the desired ends without as much fallout.

Nevertheless, credit is due. Recalcitrance to change, even when it was obviously necessary, has been detrimental to the sport in recent past. Not to applaud change for it's own sake but the experiment with the new point system represents more than just an alternative method for selection of Derby entrants. Adjustments beneficial to all affected parties can be made as required with the outcome being beneficial to the Derby. Hopefully the ripple effect from a positive experience would carry over to the remainder of the sport as well.  

12 Mar 2013 8:35 PM

Surely, contemplating a field by extrapolating past results then quantifying the validity of a new system predicated on a 'present' mathematical formula serves little purpose. It takes out 'choice of race' by trainers in the past races in the first instance.

The point system appears to me to be a marvellous success thus far, eliminating horses that will find 10 f. too taxing while at the same time preventing past glories to hobble the opportunities of valid rising stars.  

12 Mar 2013 8:52 PM

The Illinois Derby (they will have one hell of a field) winner will be waiting on the Ky.Derby winner in BATIMORE!!!...Can't wait for the Preakness!!!...ty...

12 Mar 2013 9:13 PM
El Kabong


The problem with examining the current system under prior conditions is that you negate the fact that trainers and owners would have adjusted to the rules. And more importantly, what the graded earnings crowd has failed to communicate is that their "age old system" began in 1974, prior to that there was no graded stakes earning system in America. You have the Euros to thank for that. Trainers will definitely make mistakes this year. Some who should be in the race will be left out, not because the system wasn't fair or good, but because trainers made poor decisions under the new guidelines. But the shining light of this system will ring true. False pace, and thoroughbreds who have not achieved at reasonable distance requirements will not ruin the race for those who have. I'd rather have 20 who can entertain 9-10 f's than 1 who was simply a sprinter who qualified under a misguided system of earnings.The current system has admitted that adjustments may be needed and CHANGE is built in to the new rules if needed. Something the old system completely ignored. For them, the world is still flat and quantum physics is the tongue of the devil.  

12 Mar 2013 9:19 PM

TC, the Risen Star attracted a field of the most talented horses in the country.  I invite you to go back and watch this race again.  

12 Mar 2013 9:35 PM
Karen in Texas


There was a link to a past article on Thoroughbred Times that I posted on Steve's, "The Power of Illusion" blog from 1/11/13, that listed comparisons of points under the new system to Derby winners under the old system. I tried to link it again here, but the URL is not functional; maybe something to do with TT's bankruptcy/demise. Anyway, I have a copy; the following winners would not have made the Derby field under the new system: War Emblem 0 points, Mine That Bird 15 points, Giacomo 36 points, and Charismatic 34 points. (That's using CDI's original estimate of 40 points needed.) Of the winners for the past 15 years, Smarty Jones had the most points at 160. Trinniberg, Done Talking, and Liaison would not have made the field last year under this new system.

I think the new system can work well, but trainers will need to start early to try to accrue points. There are ~18 early races, (10 pointers) including the BCJ, that can be used to start the process. As Pedigree Ann points out, some of the higher points earners will be injured, etc., allowing openings for horses with fewer points.

I think this system is interesting and dynamic in its approach.

12 Mar 2013 9:53 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

The new point system is another example of the empty headed thinking that has helped sink what was once the NUMBER ONE spectator sport in the United States.  Idiotic.

13 Mar 2013 1:24 AM
Karen in Texas

Some of you are failing to realize that while races such as the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby (and others) have not been prominent producers of top Kentucky Derby entrants in recent history, the very nature of the points system will help to balance their fields. Good horses needing valuable points will be sent to all the listed venues/tracks. I think this will lead to a positive change in overall field quality regardless of geographic location. It will take a few years to fully realize the effects of this new system.

13 Mar 2013 1:32 AM

I was just looking at a few of the recent Derby Winners and found 2 that wouldn't have qualified under the new point system-------Mine That Bird and War Emblem.---Note, War Emblem won the Illinois Derby but that stakes race is not included under this point system. Also.Giocomo had a couple of seconds that amounted to about 30 points so he too might not have qualified.

13 Mar 2013 2:58 AM
John Boudreau

Steve >> You are the Best of the Best in Your Reporting and Anaylis>>> The Racing World>> THANKS YOU>>>Good Luck!!!

13 Mar 2013 6:22 AM
Steve Haskin

John, thank you very much, that's very kind of you to say.

Closer, it's hard to say War Emblem wouldnt have qualified for the Derby, because there's a good chance he wouldnt have run in the Illinois Derby with no points, and considering he won that race by a pole and went on to win the Derby, there is a good chance he would have gone in let's say the Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass and won that.

13 Mar 2013 6:37 AM

I think this point system is great (even though it does need tweaking) in curing those who suffer from 'Derby Fever' by preventing them from taking up gate space that should have been occupied by a more deserving entrant.

And I too would be interested in a list of Derby winners who would not have made it into the gate under this point system.

13 Mar 2013 7:12 AM

I like it that the forgotten/kicked to the curb Derby Trial is worth 20 points to the winner. That could turn into a heck of race.

13 Mar 2013 9:19 AM
Rusty Weisner


Point taken, but you're confusing Liaison with someone else.  He actually ran in all 3 of the CA 3-yo prep routes and finished 6th in the Derby.  He'd actually be an argument against the current point system (which I like ok):  he ran in a more competitive circuit and wouldn't have had enough points.

13 Mar 2013 9:45 AM
Binx Bolling

Comparisons that apply this year's point system to past Derby fields are pointless.  There is no way to determine how the point system would effect past entries.  For example, take the high performing recent "turf" horses such as Animal Kingdom, Dullahan, and Paddy O'Prado.  Who knows what effect the point system would have had on their schedule.  All would have gotten in under the new system, but where would they have started the year?  How would that have effected other early races?  It is hard to imagine one of them not showing up in a race like the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth under the new system, instead of the Palm Beach.  What does that do to blow up that race and reallocate the points?

Also, the same hold true for a horse like Trinniberg.  He could have easily been sent to races like the Southwest or Rebel for points (which were both won by a sprinter) and still ended up in the Derby field.

Basically, this is a new year and new sytem.  Comparisons to past years are pretty futile at his point.  We all just have to wait and see how the system plays out.

13 Mar 2013 10:17 AM

The day after The Preakness the HEADLINES in the Baltimore Sun will read..."AMBUSHED IN BALTIMORE"!!!...ZERO points to the winner of the Illinois Derby & ZERO points to get in the in the Preakness...Both Races will have one of the strongest fields in their History...The Ky. Derby winner won't even hit the board in Baltimore...This years 3yo crop is one of the strongest in years & next years will be even BETTER...Pay Back is HELL!!!...Enjoy...

13 Mar 2013 10:59 AM

The most significant beneficiaries of the New Points System are racing fans, gamblers and Derby handicappers.

Wood Memorial: Vyjack, Normandy Invasion, Verrazano, Overanalyze and a load of other improving other  3YOs.

LA Derby: Revolutionary, Palace Malice, Code West, Oxbow and a load of other improving 3YOs.

Rebel: Super Ninety Nine, Dan’s Legacy, Treasury Bill, Delhomme and a load of other improving  3YOs.

Spiral: Balance The Books, Uncaptured,  Rydilluc, Fear The Kitten and a load of other improving 3YOs.

It is unlikely that under the old system the above races would be so competitive.

They are now great gambling races and fan will get a chance to see some of the top 3YO against each other before the Derby.

How great!

13 Mar 2013 11:14 AM
It aint easy being good!

Mary great post and I agree 100 percent. I love the new system you know why no more glorified workouts for horse. Every race seems to have full fields which makes the pretenders versus contenders a bit easier. No more hiding and dodging horses! If you need points you need to beat the best and make the game May 5th. Love it!

13 Mar 2013 11:40 AM

Rusty Weisner; I'll give Liaison the Cal. preps, his Cashcall Futurity (G1), Hollywood Park (2 Y.O.) win gave him enough graded earnings $375,000 to get into the Derby. In the 3 Cal. preps, all on dirt, his best finish was a 4th place, earning $18,000. Therefore, the GSE got him the Derby, whereas the points system he wouldn't be in the Derby.  

13 Mar 2013 11:46 AM

Good point Steve, it is senseless to compare the past to the present and say this horse or that horse would have run in the Derby or not based on the new point system. We don't know what different decisions would have been made if the point system had been in place. To check which horse would have made the Derby or not is an exercise in futility.

On another note, I think the assignment of points as is currently being done for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, could use some adjustment; to arbitrarily say 1st is 100 points and 2nd is 40 and 3rd is 20, etc. doesn't accurately depict a horse's actual performance in that race. I think that the system could be tweeked some by starting with points assigned for first and then assigning points for second ,third and fourth based on a value related to lengths defeated. For example, if a winner gets 100 points then second could receive 10 less points for each length (or portion thereof) by which they were defeated, and so forth for 3rd and 4th. This would eliminate the acquiring of points based just on a finish number and more accurately assess the performance of that horse in relation to the winner.

13 Mar 2013 11:54 AM
Age of Reason

I think El Kabong nailed it: "The problem with examining the CURRENT system under PRIOR conditions (emphasis mine)is that [it] negates the fact that trainers and owners would have adjusted to the rules." Though I've heard many good arguments as to why the new points system WILL BE a failure, it's simply impossible to tell at this point. Instead of engaging in largely baseless speculation before the fact, perhaps we should give it a few years to demonstrate its own pros and cons and then, "let us examine what we know" (Tolkien).

(Apologies for using all caps; I know it can be rude but I wanted to use italics and figured a little capitalization would do in a pinch.)

13 Mar 2013 11:55 AM

As important as the Triple Crown is

the Bottom Line is the the horses  career and value. The owner and trainer map out how to make the most money early as a two year old if they have distance limitations or thru the grueling triple crown without ruining the horse!! In the end it's a buisness and All About The Money!

13 Mar 2013 11:55 AM
Karen in Texas

Rinzler, Closer, Etc.,

A list of Derby winners over the past 15 years who would not have made the field under the new point system is shown in my 9:53 P.M. post last night as above. If there is an article (list) going back further than that, I have not found it. You can figure the points for any given horse yourself by looking at his results record on Equibase--it is tedious, but...When you go back to the '80's, '70's, and before, some of the races run are no longer in existence or their names have been changed, so that's a problem. I did it for Secretariat, Slew, Easy Goer, Sunday Silence, Affirmed, and others--they all would have easily qualified.

13 Mar 2013 11:55 AM
Pedigree Ann

Yes, Rusty, Liaison finished 5th or so every time he ran against the likes of I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, and Creative Cause. Yet his connections somehow thought a miracle would happen and he would reverse the form, instead of concluding he couldn't handle that lot and aiming for a more modest race he could win. Guess what - the form held and he finished behind all the horses he had finished behind before. Amazing!

We can't know ahead of time which circuits are stronger and which are weaker year to year. So it still makes sense to give preference to the best horses on each circuit and let the also-rans wait for the Preakness. Or the Texas Derby. Whatever.

13 Mar 2013 12:32 PM
Age of Reason

Slew and Dice Flavor fans,

I found an interesting amateur video of the El Camino Real shot from the grandstand: www.youtube.com/watch From this video's angle, Dice Flavor's turn of foot is even more impressive--just about 5 or 6 strides from being hopelessly beaten to on the lead. They come out of the far turn at about the 10:00 mark, and also shows the winner's circle as the colt appears to come out of the race with good energy. By the way, would anyone happen to know what speed figures he got--Rag., Beyer, E., etc.?

13 Mar 2013 12:42 PM

Someone talked about limiting the dollars on some of these races with big purses, like the Delta Jackpot or BC rases... might be something to think about.  If a horse could only carry part of those graded earning forward, then they do not become "win and your in" races based on earning.  Make the amount equal with the other graded 2yr old races and then go back to graded $'s earned.  In fact carry it a bit further and make the amount earned that can be considered for started gate earnings in the Derby the same across the board for the 3yr old graded races.  Then you don't have people running to the races with the highest purses and getting in with a free pass.

13 Mar 2013 1:32 PM
El Kabong


Thanks for illustrating my point to the critics who site horses that "wouldn't have made it" under a system created after the fact. It's just silly to use that line of reasoning. Not one horse who ran under the old system can be judged fairly by the new system. They all would adjusted had this system been in place when they ran. I can tell everyone one thing, If Derby 2005 had been under this system, Spanish Chestnut would not have qualified. In graded company, he could never do better than third over a mile. The pace of that Derby would have been honest, and Afleet Alex, not Affirmed,  would be the last winner of the triple crown, IMO. It's a better system who's time has come.

13 Mar 2013 3:53 PM
El Kabong

Lexington Bloodstock,

You must have some supporting logic behind your strong criticism. Care to share?

13 Mar 2013 4:09 PM

Did everyone forget...these are not Kentucky Derby nominations, we're talking about Triple Crown nominations.  That's how they're listed at Churchill.

Age of Reason.  Thanks for the heads up on the El Camino tape...and happy belated Birthday.  Did I miss the cake and Ice Cream?  Oh well, I do prefer pie....Apple Pie.

13 Mar 2013 4:56 PM

Again COLDCUTS completely misses the point....the new system would make horses try to avoid the top horses to get points....everyone is overeacting to the points thing....if the horse cant get 3rd in a prep, hows he gonna win the derby?

13 Mar 2013 6:02 PM
El Kabong

Age of Reason,

And so it is said and so it shall be. We shall wait to examine what we know with a pipe full of old toby and a quart of good mead!  Cheers and Belated wishes.

13 Mar 2013 6:02 PM

It is hard to get a handle on the point system.  It may work out well for colts, but what about fillies?  If the point system were in place during their years, Rachel Alexandra wouldn't have been able to run in the Derby nor would Genuine Risk!  

13 Mar 2013 6:14 PM
Jackie Shartz

It would be a real shame if Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary didn't make it to the Derby.  

I hope Tiz the Minister somehow makes gets in.  I love how he closes.

I also hope we don't lose Here the Ghost. I wonder how Uncaptured can get in.  These are my picks since I lost Violence.

I thing this system need to be tweeked more.

13 Mar 2013 9:27 PM

first bettors are subjected to poly track world..so I stopped betting those tracks. Now a point system that ruins history and the derby and Triple crown. So besides not betting pollytracks. No I dont bet pools and may skip the Derby all together. I guess after 45 years it had to end sometime. Good bye horse racing as my father taught me. The sport has been ruined over the past 10 years.

13 Mar 2013 9:31 PM
Paula Higgins

Great post Steve and it really gets you thinking. You did a great job outlining the pros and the cons and some of the bloggers made good points as well. I am of two minds about this system. Like almost any system you put in place, it's going to have positives and negatives. I think it will have the effect of eliminating the true longshot, which is kind of sad. The Cinderella story will be pretty much a thing of the past. But it may improve the chances of a Triple Crown winner. I think trainers are going to be in for a ride this year, and maybe for the next two years, while they try to figure out the best strategies to get their horse(s)into the Derby. It's going to become a chess game. On the negative side, it may not be the best thing for the horse. Let's hope that trainers do what is best for the horse and not push them into the wrong races just for the points. I also agree that it will take the second coming of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra combined, to make it into the Derby. That needs tweaking.

14 Mar 2013 12:09 AM

Uncaptured has 10 points and approx. 300k unrestricted earnings.

Rachel Alexandra would not have been able to run in the Derby under any system because her owner had philosophical objections to girls trying to beat boys.

(He no longer earned her by the Preakness.)

Genuine Risk would have gotten in. Her c.v. tells me she was being pointed for it by Leroy Jolley. She was was third in the Wood Memorial to Plugged Nickle. Since he had the horse, Jolley would have run her where he needed to or peaked her when he needed to.

For obvious reasons I can't name one, it's another of those wudda bins, but there are probably contenders this year who would not still be with us had they been pushed for points last year.

14 Mar 2013 12:11 AM

Love the new points system over graded earnings. I have nothing against the people at Delta Downs but the Delta Jackpot was becoming a "prestigious" race in the graded earnings system. Nuff said!!!

14 Mar 2013 12:26 AM

Slewguru brought up a point that I have also been wondering about: fillies in the Derby.  This system would not have affected Rachel because she didn't run in the Derby, but Genuine Risk did and won.  Eight Belles (may she rest in peace) came very close.  I love the girls and always root for them when they run; so does this system now mean we will never see a filly in the Derby again? That would make me very sad indeed.

14 Mar 2013 12:27 AM

Slewguru, the three fillies who won the Kentucky Derby all raced against colts in stakes races before the Derby.

Regret swept the important two year old colt races at Saratoga in the Saratoga Special, the Sanford Memorial, and the Hopeful. (In fact, she did not run in a race restricted to females until she was five years old).

Genuine Risk hit the board in the Wood Memorial.

Winning Colors won the Santa Anita Derby.

So if a filly's connections want to run her in the Derby they will have to follow suite and test her against the colts first.

14 Mar 2013 12:59 AM
Age of Reason

Steve, Footlick, Slew, and El Kabong,

A belated thanks to y'all for the kind wishes. Turns out my family threw a surprise party, and made chocolate chip brownies...ya shoulda been there! El K., great to see a fellow Tolkien fan. Here in Tennessee, the Hobbit comes out on dvd this Tuesday, the 19th. Maybe I'll have time to watch it before the next round of Derby preps. Hmm, I wonder if the Riders of Rohan maybe had a little racecourse marked out in those mountains?...

14 Mar 2013 11:57 AM
El Kabong

As far as Fillies are concerned,

I am of the mind that the Derby is stressful enough for all the horses. Between the carnival atmosphere, the size of the field and the challenging distance, I can't help but think that such a situation is a terrible atmosphere for owners to experiment with their filly against the boys. It makes so much sense to attempt that in a prep race and if it's done in the last leg and she's competitive enough to  place, she's in and you have your answer in a better situation. And there's no reason that test cannot take place earlier. If she wins in March, she's in. There are no glass ceilings in this system that I can see and Duchess brings up the best stat of all about successful Fillies in the Derby thus far.

14 Mar 2013 12:45 PM

The only thing I can assure, is that with the point system this year we will have a new stakes record...

14 Mar 2013 12:52 PM

   First of all, yes, I was one who agreed that the ‘old’ earnings system needed to be revised. And, I am not opposed to a point system at all, although some future ‘tweaking’ might yet still be required to the present one.

   One possible simple adaptation towards a solution might be to expand more preps that allow points to be awarded and obtained. In fact, for all the  1  1/16 and  1  1/8  type of preps,--even and probably to especially include Maiden Special Weight attempts,--why not allow points to be obtained? In my opinion, more points spread around and obtainable would relieve some of the ‘do or die’ pressure off of the owners and trainers, especially for later developing colts. And that way, more of the efforts of earlier runs would still also be rewarded and trainers would have some freer hand of ‘plotting’ their courses to qualify similar to always.  

    And, although I agree that it appears that many trainers are leaving themselves open to only one shot at qualifying points, that however was also an occurrence in ‘old’ system. Under the earnings system owners & trainers did often also appear to take only one shot at acquiring their required earnings from only one race, possibly another flaw.

    Other questions though:

    1.) How come some of point’s awarding prep races seemingly also have a short number of restricted runners?

    2.) And akin to that thought, how come for every ‘points qualifying’ race run there are also not more—several ? (AE)--‘alternate’ entries waiting in the wings to fill gate slots that might open up via scratches to attempt to gain those points that are offered?


    3.) Additionally, how come we aren’t informed in advance of which horses on the nomination’s list,--say by the end of February,--simply aren’t even attempting a try and, or run for specifically the Derby Kentucky? Whereby to remedy that situation, all owners would summit a statement--by say -2/25/xx--stating whether their horse--where upon previously having paid the Early Nomination Fee--still actually in the running for a gate slot specifically for the Kentucky Derby, or NOT.  


    It is my feeling that for all of the 2 year-olds & 3 year-olds pointed toward-or headed toward the Derby-or minimally listed as TRIPLE CROWN NOMINATION list--that have some potential of attempting to gain a gate slot for the Kentucky Derby in the least,--that we the public and especially we the bettors, should flatly be much better informed.

    4.) And thusly as had been asked before, ‘why is there no National injury list?’, especially as related to 3 year olds on the ‘Nominee’s list’,--where the betters out here can be made aware of when a horse is missing his training regimen, the extent of whatever injury, and how long in some projection that a horse will be out of training, and etc.?--

   Simply, the National Football League,--where likewise betting is allowed, restricted as such, but overseen in some legal manner,--is required to and does provide us with an INJURY information list. And that all so, being unlike the HORSE RACING INDUSTRY, which seems to basically only inform us of when a horse has a such a crippling injury that he/she then becomes removed from the ‘trail’ altogether. It is my belief that revisions and adaptations to keep the BETTING PUBLIC better informed is not only needed, but possibly should be made required by law if the INDUSTRY itself fails to alter the current policies in this last mentioned regard.

   Here, for example, it would have been, and would be nice to have known the type and nature of  “Title Town Five”’s injury; expected recovery diagnosis; how much in some projection that training time might be,-will be,-or was missed, and the supposed extent of his recovery, & etc. Are we just suppose to take it all on fate, that should that horse return and win the Sunland Derby that there afterward that he will be in fine shape for a Derby win attempt with we having been given little to virtually no information.? I personally believe that we are due way more information in such regards. Wouldn’t the industry be better off itself if we were better informed? We base our bets now not knowing a trainers thinking or intentions going into many races; or the horses soundness; and many other factors, etc. Sharing as much information as possible with the betting public,--who only bets against itself in reality anyway,--we would be in the least more informed, and that spread of knowledge could only aid the wagering industry itself.

14 Mar 2013 1:29 PM


agree with all the point's you made, but, there is one more factor that could mess everyone up and that factor is if we have real bad weather during the 100 point races and the tracks get really sloppy or muddy & those kinda races always result in longshot's popping up.

So I need your opinion on this point system and the question is Is churchill putting all its eggs in one basket?

As you may remember I have been in favor of a system of equal point's for graded races(of course top 4/5 finishers)example a Grade 1 equal in points to any other Grade 1 and a Grade 2 equal in points for any other Grade 2 race, but, then the argument that will pop up as how many points a Grade 1 runnerup gets compared to a Grade 2 winner, etc.

14 Mar 2013 1:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Jon, that's an excellent point. I should have mentioned that as well.

14 Mar 2013 3:19 PM

What I wonder about is what happens if a horse is all out to get points enough to get into the derby that they bounce come derby day? I would think the "eggs in one basket" idea would make that more of a possibility.

14 Mar 2013 4:56 PM
Old Old Cat

The people who are saying the trainers and owners would adjust (or are adjusting) to the point system are missing the P-O-I-N-T.  Trainers are running their BABYS on surfaces they feel are healthy for the DEVELOPMENT of the horse, at distances they feel are best for the HORSE at that stage of training.  If THEY have to adjust, or move away from their plans, why are they doing it???  They are doing it for the points, not for the continued normal progression of developing a HEALTHY racehorse.  

But maybe that doesn't matter.  Consigners at 2yo in training sales are pumping up their horses to run in 10.2 or 10.3, which they will never run again in their lives, for the purpose of a big sale.  Maybe some of the Triple Crown owners, trainers, and rule makers are only concerned with winning ONE BIG RACE then retiring to the breeding shed, so what if the horse is ruined as a racer, more money is to be made.

14 Mar 2013 5:29 PM

S99s picture in the winners circle will depend on how he rations his speed from the outside.Post position has not been a disadvantage according to the Brisnet PPs here are the figures for the meet: Post Bias:

+              Rail  1-3 4-7  8+

Impact Values: 1.49 1.14 0.89 1.08

Avg Win         18% 14%  11%  11%

14 Mar 2013 6:06 PM

I just want to verify my earlier comment about fillies and the point system.  I used Rachel and Genuine Risk as examples because Derby winner Genuine Risk would not have had enough points with the 20 points she earned with her 3rd in the Wood Memorial.  She was by far the standout that year in the TC with her Derby win and Preakness and Belmont placings -- it would have been awful if she didn't get in.  And as far as Rachel, I do know of course that she didn't run in the Derby. My point was that she could NOT have even if her owners had wanted to go that route.  She certainly validated her pre-Derby accomplishments as the year went on.

I'm not opposed to the point system, but I do think it needs tweaking where fillies and 2yo champions are concerned.  

14 Mar 2013 8:08 PM
Your Only Friend

Great Article.....you hit it right on the head.......the day of all talk and owner with Big Big Bucks wanting horse in Derby must now run and show his stuff.....in long run best for horse racing.....may take another year for some trainers too wakeup...figure out what is going on.....what is best for his horses and owners.

14 Mar 2013 8:13 PM
Arts and Letters

Steve, if there were a points system for best use of mixed metaphors, your last paragraph would be a shoe-in!

15 Mar 2013 1:17 AM

Does anybody remember Affirmed?

All those long works he had?

He still won the Triple crown.

What about Don't Get Mad?

He ran right back from a super caliber work in The Derby Trial to finish fourth behind Giacomo, Closing Argument, and Afleet Alex

in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Don't get burned by forgetting to put last-minute longshots in 3rd or 4th

place. Exactas? You're right about that. Afleet Alex will always hold a place in my heart for winning the Preakness Stakes by aver ting a sheer disaster with Scrappy T. and having the tenacity and endurance to overtake Scrappy T. after a near fatal mishap and win the 2005 Preakness Stakes with jockey Jeremy Rose's immaculate nerves of steel. Use Afleet Alex

with a formidable Broodmare(think La Ville Rouge or another broodmare with her lineage). If you don't believe me, find a link to view the 2005 Preakness Stakes.

I've seen a few horses and jockeys like them; they must have a tail to an ancient equinaut if you get my Perfect drift!

Those horses don't come around too often.

15 Mar 2013 5:19 AM

I couldn't help but enjoy a good laugh while reading that last paragraph Steve. If there is some Derby darkhorse contender out there named Cliché I definitely think they should have you as the jockey.

15 Mar 2013 6:20 AM


Fear The Kitten the colt that finished 11L behind S99 was beaten 13L by Oxbow in the Lecomte Stakes. Oxbow returned in the Risen Star facing a much stronger field and finished a close 4th.

S99 will only be facing 2 opponents from the Southwest. The remaining opponents are new shooters. The Rebel field is significantly stronger and despite  his excellent speed  his prospect of winning are extremely remote.

15 Mar 2013 9:19 AM
Pedigree Ann

Slewguru, Cassandra -

There were only 13 runners in the year of Genuine Risk's win. No overflow field means no need to apply points or graded earnings or whatever - all who entered could run.

Until the last couple of decades, 20-horses fields were NOT the norm. Citation and Coaltown, the mighty Calumet entry, had only 4 others to beat. The mighty 4 of 1969 had only another quartet to beat. Only 9 others took on Affirmed and Alydar.

We won't know if worthy horses will be left out until we get to the Derby. Previous years, when other rules were in place, are irrelevant.

15 Mar 2013 11:01 AM
Rusty Weisner

The earnings ranking in this article makes a good argument for the current system:


15 Mar 2013 11:17 AM


That IS a good point! I only have three words for you: Bee Bee Bee...without the slop at Pimlico, Meadow Stables would have had back to back Triple Crown winners. Just imagine!

15 Mar 2013 11:38 AM
steve from st louis

It would make the most sense if everyone would just calm down, take a look after the Triple Crown was run and evaluate how the new system worked.

Personally, I think it's a mistake to force horsemen to run their colts in specific races based on points as opposed to graded money.

It's getting to the point where I think the industry would be best served if the Derby would be made into an Invitational. Have the racing secretaries of the TRA vote for their top 18 3-year-olds on March 1 and then again on April 1 leaving two spots open for an April 15 vote. It's as good a system as anything else.

15 Mar 2013 1:07 PM
Your Only Friend

Never understood why "Arlington" was not included in Point System if they came up with Grade 1 qualifying race?

15 Mar 2013 3:51 PM
Karen in Texas

Rusty W.,

Thanks for linking the ESPN article.

15 Mar 2013 4:56 PM

If we would have had the points system last year, this would have been the top 25:

1.  Bodemeister      120

2.  Secret Circle    115

3.  Dullahan         111

4. I'll Have Another 110

5.  Gemologist       110

6.  Daddy Long Legs  110

7.  Hansen           105

8.  Hero of Order    105

9.  Creative Cause   102

10. Take Charge Indy 101

11. Union Rags       85

12. Prospective      65

13. El Padrino       62

14. Mark Valeski     60

15. Daddy Nose Best  60

16. Alpha            55

17. Went The Day Well 50

18. Reveron          41

19. Sabercat         30

20. Optimizer        23

21. My Adonis        22

22. Wrote            22

23. Isn't He Clever  21

24. Blueskiesandrainbows 20

25. Cozzetti    20

Missing from the list Rousing Sermon, Liaison Done Talking and Trinniberg.

Race choices might have been different if the derby point system would have been in place last season. Who would have won? Who knows

15 Mar 2013 6:19 PM

Sorry Secret Circle had 105

15 Mar 2013 6:51 PM
Pedigree Ann

Your Only Friend -

Arlington's Spring meet doesn't open until the 3rd of May, which is one day before the Derby is run.

Now, there is a Derby prep in Chicago, the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, on April 20. But the powers at CD decided this race was less likely than the Derby Trial or the Lexington S to find a worthy Derby starter so gave it no points. The fact that Hawthorne is defending itself against the desire of Churchill Downs, Inc-owned Arlington to poach some of its dates of course has nothing to do with it. (And if you believe that, I have this property...,)

15 Mar 2013 7:31 PM
Age of Reason

It's already been mentioned, but I too am hopefully looking forward to seeing Footbridge break through this weekend. He continues to work very well at Hollywood Park, firing bullets in the morning as has almost become his custom; on Tuesday, the 12th he went 5f in 1:00 flat (1/19). I don't think I've ever "stuck with" a maiden after 3 losing starts, but there's just too much upside to this baby.

Orb, late development syndrome? My eye. The horse won a deep G2 in February over a Grade 1-winning 2 year old. Sure, there are certain noticeable trends with runners from certain families, but there are also exceptions to the rules. We might all approach the Derby with a little less confusion if we let those darned 'cold facts' (grin) speak for themselves, instead of trying to fit them into our own pre-conceived narratives.

(I tried to post the above comment on Steve's earlier Derby Dozen article for this week, but the link in the blogroll disappeared shortly thereafter, so I'm re-submitting it here.)

15 Mar 2013 7:40 PM
Pedigree Ann

Steve from st louis-

Back when the graded system was in place, trainers were "forced" to run in graded stakes races. The points races are the logical races that have been used for prepping for the Derby for the last decade or so. The only change is that sprint races are excluded, which is a good thing to my mind. Use a non-point sprint race to set up for running in longer point races later, sure. Use only sprint races to prep? Stupid strategy.

15 Mar 2013 7:41 PM

Coldfacts: The Rebel field is significantly stronger and despite  his excellent speed  his prospect of winning are extremely remote.

OK so who will win the Rebel then?

15 Mar 2013 7:59 PM

I totally agree with what Steve said in an earlier episode of "And There Off" when he and Lenny were discussing the new points system and that is that no matter what system is eventually adopted you are always going to get some fans that think something better should be in place.

16 Mar 2013 3:27 AM

We won't be able to evaluate after the Derby; we'll need more experience. The worst case scenario, which will bury this system with a stake through its heart, would be to have a horse fail to make the Derby and then win the Preakness and Belmont.

A few people have scoffed at the notion that any really good horse could fail to get in. There are some right now who are conceivably good enough to win the wins and yet not a lock on a starting position.

Things that are "good for racing" are things that make an impact beyond the "fraternity."

Good: an evolving super horse.

Offspring of a super mare everyone remembers.

Little colt from the back country on a winning streak that leads to the Derby.

My first thought on this system was that it would be a fail if it compromised the chances of the unexpected contender whose people didn't start thinking of him as a Grade 1 horse until he'd won five non-graded stakes away from the coasts.

The public is mad for these unheralded champions, but might it be too late for them to qualify by the time their herald turns up, allowing for a bad trip, a fleeting temperature necessitating a scratch, the usual small things that come at the wrong time.

16 Mar 2013 4:12 AM

Rusty Weisner, you are right, the evidence is there plain and simple. Going on the current points scored versus prize money earned - I would much rather watch the points system Kentucky Derby than the prize money earned.

I believe the 'ayes have it.'  

16 Mar 2013 7:13 AM

I agree that assuming the same decisions would be made using the point system rather than if the money system is highly unlikely.  And to pick out horses who won that wouldn't have gotten in under the point system is not logical.  Who knows which horses in the past might have gotten in with the point system in use and won?

16 Mar 2013 9:41 AM
Paula Higgins

Old Old cat, you are so right. Cassandra.Says, you too.

16 Mar 2013 3:40 PM

Well, in the Rebel Stakes Super Ninety Nine reaffirmed Bob Baffert's first assumption that he is a miler. Even so, DWL runs 1, 2, too thrilling.

Joyful Victory could have easily run 12f. in her dominating performance in the Santa Margarita, a nice Grade 1 win for the Tapit filly. Is this an omen for the Derby?

Meanwhile, Incognito looked impressive at Aqueduct, is it too late for him to get to the big dance? I am hoping that an A. P. Indy colt will get there.

The Derby gods are sorting out the field in fine fettle.  

16 Mar 2013 7:42 PM

Neither S99 nor Delhomme or Treasury Bill ran very well in the Rebel.Sometimes keeping it simple works the best just box D Wayne in the race and the exacta is yours.

Coldfacts on to the next prep our picks bombed in the race.No bragging rights for this race, but for the body of picks thus far for the preps I know who I have picked do you?

16 Mar 2013 7:44 PM

I have real problems with the points system as it stands right now.  It needs some serious tweaking, especially in its elimination of fillies qualifying for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races, and its elimination of the Illinois Derby in the issuance of both importance and stakes points.  

The Illinois Derby was eliminated because the man who owns Arlington Park is the main honcho of the Churchill Downs Corporation, and the owner of Arlington Park loathes the owner of Hawthorne Race Track. Their rivalry is toxic and Arlington's owner used this points system to play one-upsmanship with the Hawthorne owner.  Never mind that Hawthorne's Illinois Derby gave us War Emblem, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, which gives the Illinois Derby a much better cache than some of the other stakes races that the Churchill Corporation considers "excellent" barometers of Derby-calibre horses.

And please don't get me started about the total mysogeny of preventing fillies from pursuing the Derby/Triple Crown track, because I would be typing all day invoking my ire about that stupid decision.  The tragedy that happened to beautiful, brave, courageous & inspiring Eight Belles was the exception, rather than the rule.  Fillies have competed very nobly in the Kentucky Derby and has won three of them.  Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors probably would not have even been entered in the "qualifying" Triple Crown-relevant stakes races under this current point system if they were running today, not to mention Rachel Alexandra and Rags To Riches, who went on to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.  This point system sucks, and it should be tweaked as soon as possible.  

Trainers are avoiding certain races, like the Florida Derby, altogether (as of this date) in the chase for points elsewhere because they feel that the top three contenders in the Florida Derby race might not be beatable and will limit their horse's chances of getting a start in the Kentucky Derby, a legitimate fear I must say.

We won't have to wait very long for the Churchill Corporation to tweak this points system or eliminate it altogether, though.  I think the combination of race results like the ones in today's Rebel Stakes, the Risen Star, and a couple of other stakes races that have been run so far, is making a farce out of Churchill Corporation's original intention that only the "best" horses will win those races, and other "not worthy" horses would be eliminiaed and weeded out.  Three year olds are an unpredictable bunch and what happens every year is happening again this year: certain 3 year olds are late maturers, and they are suddenly coming to the forefront.  Those late maturers are winning the stakes races at a pretty good clip at long shot odds for the most part, not that I'm complaining about that part because it makes for a great payday when it happens. - LOL.  I don't normally bet chalks, and I love it when something 9-2 or better wins a race.  I like value for my dollar.  The late maturers are standing Churchill's points system on its ear right now, and there are going to be some interesting, very unexpected horses that are going to be in the starting gate in Louisville the first Saturday in May!  And THAT was DEFINITELY not the intenion of the Churchill Corporation, that's for sure.  By December 2013 the Churchill Corporation will probably admit their Great Experiment did not work out as well as they originally thought it would, and they will quietly make changes to the system.  Hopefully, changes in the right direction, please (i.e., letting fillies compete again and giving the Illinois Derby winner at least 50 points to 100 points in the points system), or just go back to graded earnings, which wasn't such a bad system after all.  Trinniberg did go on to win a Breeders' Cup race in November 2012.  He has proven and redeemed himself from all of his detractors.  Trinniberg did turn out to be a "worthy" horse in the end, and nobody reviles him anymore....

16 Mar 2013 9:13 PM
Saratoga AJ

A day for two old timers...a trainer and stable.

A Lucas exacta? Amazing. Especially  when the winner Will Take Charge  lost by 18 lengths on the same track, at the same distance, against many of the same horses a month ago. Only explanation is it was wet then.

So old timer Lucas has two for the gate on May 4th. As does the legendary Calumet Farms, who own's 2nd place finisher Oxbow.

17 Mar 2013 8:47 AM
Saratoga AJ

A day for two old timers...a trainer and stable.

A Lucas exacta? Amazing. Especially  when the winner Will Take Charge  lost by 18 lengths on the same track, at the same distance, against many of the same horses a month ago. Only explanation is it was wet then.

So old timer Lucas has two for the gate on May 4th. As does the legendary Calumet Farms, who own's 2nd place finisher Oxbow.

17 Mar 2013 8:49 AM
Bethany Loftis

I love the new points system. Of course there will need to be some tweaking, as with every new system that's implemented, however it's a start. Trainers and owners of colts and fillies alike knew towards the end of 2012 that Churchill Downs was going to use a new points system to determine the Derby field. As a trainer, it should have been their obligation to sit down with their owners and say, "hey, if you're serious about potentionally making the Derby, we need to map out more than a few races to ensure we get the points. We need to be prepared to win some, and lose some. We can't wait until the last second with your champion and cross our fingers."

The same trainer obligation could be said for the owners of the fillies. The points system isn't designed to block out fillies, it's designed to assemble the best of the best at this time of year. If an owner of a filly wants her to dance the big dance with the big boys, then the trainer needs to map out a campaign designed around the boys to determine if she can be considered Derby worthy. Using past examples with fillies such as Genuine Risk, as a bolsterment for argument is completely irrelevant as a new system is now in place.

I look forward to the weeks to come as we get closer to the big day!!! Let's just pray the rest stay happy and healthy along this long road!

Thanks again Steve for your wonderful articles and insight! It is greatly appreciated by all of us!!!

17 Mar 2013 10:42 AM
Pedigree Ann

JoyJackson21 -

Get a grip. Graded stakes have been around only since 1973, and the use of graded earning to limit Derby fields did not come in until a few years afterward.

In Regret's time, there were no graded races, no field limitations, and no starting gates. The horses lined up as best as possible behind a tape, which was raised to start the race. The way 'chases are still started. Oh, and she came in as champion 2yo, having beaten colts in the major stakes at Saratoga.

Before Regret won it, the Kentucky Derby was a nice regional race, and not as prestigious as the Latonia Derby in No. Kentucky. Matt Winn, the man who built the Churchill race to it current status, considered it a coup to have lured Regret to his race and her win gave him all the publicity he desired. But it still took another couple of decades for him to build the race into the premier US classic race - that title had belonged to the Belmont since 'dash' racing had become the norm (as opposed to heat racing).

Winning Colors won the Santa Anita Derby over colts and Genuine Risk was a close third in the Wood Memorial. (Only 13 ran in GR's year, so the field-limiting regulations didn't come into play.) Eight Belles is the ONLY filly to have hit the board without having run against males previously.

Many other fillies who ran in the Derby didn't do as well - Santa Anita Derby winner Silver Spoon (5th), Cupecoy's Joy (last), Excellent Meeting (5th), Three Ring (last), Arkansas Derby winner Althea (19th), Life's Magic (8th - she had been 2nd in the Norfolk, 3rd in Hol Futurity), Mata Hari (4th, won Ky JC and Brdrs Fut at 2), Nellie Flag (4th, beat colts at 2).

Furthermore, you seem to have things backward. The graded money system worked AGAINST later developing horses by counting huge 2yo purses, which could eliminate a horse who was a close second in the Florida or Santa Anita Derbies but hadn't other graded earnings  - that DID happen to Pleasant Prince in 2010 and Rock Hard Ten, who actually finished first but was dq'd to 3rd, in 2004. Late developers have a better shot to get in with the points system.

17 Mar 2013 12:00 PM
Pedigree Ann

El Kabong -

Point of fact - Spanish Chestnut won the G2 San Rafael at 8f, which is no longer run, at Santa Anita. It was source of most of his graded earnings.

17 Mar 2013 12:03 PM

NEWS FLASH: To all of those crying about the point system eliminating fillies, be advised that their owners and trainers ARE ALLOWED to enter them in the prep races. Regret, Genuine Risk, and Winning Colors would not have been shut out of the Derby by the point system because they actually faced colts and won or placed in major prep point races. No one is stopping fillies from entering these prep races. So please stop with the complaints aboutthe  "total mysogeny of preventing fillies from pursuing the Derby/Triple Crown". If their connections believe them to be deserving, they will enter them in the remaining prep races. If not, good luck in the Oaks!!!

17 Mar 2013 4:59 PM

sfcjordan, +1

18 Mar 2013 7:50 AM
Your Only Friend

Went back read your article again......you are correct....owners,trainers can no longer lean on the rail ,talk about how good horse they have....got to run baby run.....or you are out.

18 Mar 2013 3:06 PM

To Pedigree Ann,

I am not a neophyte to the sport, and I know full well that the Kentucky Derby has gained significant stature over the years from the time Regret ran in the Derby in the early 1900s.  In my original post, I said if today's points system was in place during Regret's era, she might not have made it to the gate for the KD she actually won.  You did not apply the supposition of applying today's standards to her race in your response to my post, you told me what I already knew about the stature of the race in those days.  The explaination doesn't resolve the problem that needs to be fixed in the points system.

To your point about Genuine Risk:  With Genuine Risk running against males and coming in third in the Wood Memorial, she would have earned only 20 points for a third place and more than likely would have missed being in the starting gate in her Kentucky Derby.  Thirty or more points might stand up this year to get a horse in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby, 20 points probably will not cut it.  The Wood's 20 points probably would not have cut it for Genuine Risk, either.  That was my point in my original post, and you have again proven the point I was trying to make.  We would have lost a winning performance by a female horse in the Kentucky Derby had this points system been in existence in Genuine Risk's time.  

To your point that most of the fillies who have run in the Derby came in 4th or worse, I can say the same for male horses as well.  Approximately 4 female horses have hit the board in the past 138 years of the Kentucky Derby, appoximately 410 colts have hit the board during that time, and 1,000+ colts have NOT hit the board in the Kentucky Derby.  So, it is totally irrelevant that only 4 out of roughly 12 females have bit the board.  That is approximately the same percentage of colts who have placed in the race vs. number of colts who have not placed in the race.  You do have a point, however, that the new points system works to the advantage of late developing 3 year olds.

Sfcjordan, I am well aware that the owners of fillies are allowed to enter their fillies in these races, however, the rules as they are now do not encourage an owner to send their filly down the Triple Crown path.  What if you change your mind in early winter and decide your filly is pretty formidable and should be running against colts as well?  Is there an ABSOLUTE guarantee in place that if you do start steering your filly down the TC path instead of the Oaks path you can completely transfer her points earned in the Oaks trail at equal value and that the Oaks version of a stakes race has the same amount of points and stature appointed to it as a TC qualifying stakes race?  It just has not been fully addressed that you can do so.  The current rules can psychologically influence an owner to send their filly down the Oaks path and ONLY down the Oaks path.  I would like, and think it would be admirable, to see equity applied in all of this and make sure the rules are encouragingly inclusive to both sexes.  

I also believe that a couple of the two year old stakes races, definitely the Breeders' Cup Juvenile & the one at Saratoga, should receive may 5 or 10 more points than it presently does.  That would distinguish those races as being significant to win above other 2 year old races and gives them enough points to being nearer to qualifying for the Derby, but not quite have enough to guarantee a spot in the starting gate.  That would leave a little room to encourage their owners to have to enter their horses into later 3 year old preps to prove their horses really do have the goods and are up to racing with the best of the 3 year old crop. And in response tothe rest of your post, please see the response to Pedigree Ann in regard to Genuine Risk's Derby participation.

No system is perfect, and this points system is not as well.  It definitely needs tweaking.  That has always been my point and has been what I have openly stated.  I am sure the Churchill Downs Corporation has already realized some tweaking needs to be done to the system and will probably quietly do just so sometime in the Fall of 2013 to right some of the inequities now present in the system before horses start their trek toward the 2014 Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races.  

Thank you, everyone.  I hope you are all having a great Easter weekend.  Animal Kingdom had an absolutely fabulous win today in the Dubai World Cup and has brought glory to American racing and has made all of his fans, including me, so VERY proud of him.  What a horse!!

30 Mar 2013 4:36 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs