Churchill Downs takes control of Derby field selection, reduces casino-fed purse influence

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 15 at 11:12 AM

LOUISVILLE Ky. (WHAS11) -- In a move to attract racing fans and control the destiny of its premiere property, Churchill Downs announced a new NASCAR style system Thursday to determine which 20 horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

"Our goal is to create a compelling story for the race fan to follow that all culminates on the first Saturday in May," said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs President.

Rather than base the Derby field on the current system ranking each horse's eligibility according to total earnings from about 185 races,  points will be awarded in 36 stakes races of Churchill's choosing.

"It will definitely alienate current fans in my opinion," said Genie Fortunato after the plan was announced at the Churchill Downs, Inc shareholders' meeting.  "I  also - with it being this complicated - I don't know if it's going to attract that many new fans"

Churchill Downs officials said which stakes races carry Derby points will be reviewed each year with changes announced each July.  The races chosen for the 2013 Derby's selection process are at least a one-mile distance, re-enforcing the racetrack's goal to fill the Derby field with runners capable of competing at the Derby's distance of 1 ¼ miles.

“If someone comes to us with an idea that we think is innovative and makes the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ better, we’ll certainly be open to it,” Flanery said.  "At this point and time, what we’ve assumed here is that the racetracks will run the same races under the same conditions around the same dates as last year. If not, we’ll have to adjust the schedule.”

"I think the points system is really, it will get the good horses in the Derby and the fans see the best horses in the race at the same time," said Frankie Robinson, another Churchill Downs, Inc shareholder.

CDI Chairman & CEO Bob Evans dismissed the question whether the change is "messing with tradition."

"I don't think so," Evans said.  "If you look at all the races that are part of the new road to the Derby, they're all races that exist today, so it's a smaller list, but they've all been around for many, many years."

The change is also a quality control issue.

With total earnings the current determining factor, Churchill became concerned that casino fed purses in other states would hijack the road to the Derby

"Someone else is controlling what the path to the Kentucky Derby is," Flanery said.  "Churchill Downs, we're the ones who are.. and the city of Louisville, we are the ones who are the stewards of the Derby. And so as we looked at all the changes that are happening and how horses are qualifying, you sort of have that 'aha' moment where you say, 'Guess what?  We should be making sure that we have the proper path to the Derby, that we're getting the best horses and we're giving everybody a chance to compete, a fair chance to compete at their zenith on the first Saturday in May.'"

If the points system had been in place in 2009, Mine That Bird wouldn't have won the Derby because the longshot wouldn't have even been eligible to race in the Derby.

"You're still going to have those horses and those trainers and those owners who are strategizing," Flanery said.  "And that will be a lot of fun, they are strategizing, 'How do I get in there, because I think I've got the longshot on that day."

The Kentucky Oaks fillies classic will have a separate but similar point system, yet zero Derby points will be awarded to races with fillies only.

 

ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY
 
KENTUCKY DERBY PREP SEASON
 
Race Distance Track Location 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Royal Lodge 1 M (T) Newmarket England 10 4 2 1
Norfolk 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Breeders’ Futurity 1 1/16 M (S) Keeneland Kentucky 10 4 2 1
Champagne 1 M Belmont New York 10 4 2 1
Grey 1 1/16 M (S) Woodbine Canada 10 4 2 1
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Delta Downs Jackpot 1 1/16 M Delta Downs Louisiana 10 4 2 1
Remsen 1 1/8 M Aqueduct New York 10 4 2 1
Kentucky Jockey Club 1 1/16 M Churchill Downs Kentucky 10 4 2 1
CashCall Futurity 1 1/16 M (S) Hollywood Park California 10 4 2 1
Sham 1 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Smarty Jones 1 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 10 4 2 1
Lecomte 1 M 70 Y Fair Grounds Louisiana 10 4 2 1
Holy Bull 1 M Gulfstream Park Florida 10 4 2 1
Robert B. Lewis 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Sam F. Davis 1 1/16 M Tampa Bay Downs Florida 10 4 2 1
Withers 1 1/16 M Aqueduct New York 10 4 2 1
El Camino Real Derby 1 1/8 M (S) Golden Gate California 10 4 2 1
Southwest 1 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 10 4 2 1
 
KENTUCKY DERBY CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
 
Race Distance Track Location 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
First Leg of Series              
Risen Star 1 1/16 M Fair Grounds Louisiana 50 20 10 5
Fountain of Youth 1 1/16 M Gulfstream Park Florida 50 20 10 5
Gotham 1 1/16 M Aqueduct New York 50 20 10 5
Tampa Bay Derby 1 1/16 M Tampa Bay Downs Florida 50 20 10 5
San Felipe 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 50 20 10 5
Rebel 1 1/16 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 50 20 10 5
Spiral 1 1/8 M (S) Turfway Park Kentucky 50 20 10 5
Sunland Derby 1 1/8 M Sunland Park New Mexico 50 20 10 5
Second Leg of Series              
Florida Derby 1 1/8 M Gulfstream Park Florida 100 40 20 10
UAE Derby 1 3/16 M (S) Meydan Racecourse Dubai 100 40 20 10
Louisiana Derby 1 1/8 M Fair Grounds Louisiana 100 40 20 10
Wood Memorial 1 1/8 M Aqueduct New York 100 40 20 10
Santa Anita Derby 1 1/8 M Santa Anita California 100 40 20 10
Arkansas Derby 1 1/8 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 100 40 20 10
Blue Grass 1 1/8 M (S) Keeneland Kentucky 100 40 20 10
“Wild Card”              
Lexington 1 1/16 M (S) Keeneland Kentucky 20 8 4 2
The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial 1 M Churchill Downs Kentucky 20 8 4 2
 
 
ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY OAKS
 
KENTUCKY OAKS PREP SEASON
 
Race Distance Track Location 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Fillies’ Mile 1 M (T) Newmarket England 10 4 2 1
Oak Leaf 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Alcibiades 1 1/16 M (S) Keeneland Kentucky 10 4 2 1
Frizette 1 M Belmont New York 10 4 2 1
Mazarine 1 1/16 M (S) Woodbine Canada 10 4 2 1
Pocahontas 1 M Churchill Downs Kentucky 10 4 2 1
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Delta Downs Princess 1 M Delta Downs Louisiana 10 4 2 1
Demoiselle 1 1/8 M Aqueduct New York 10 4 2 1
Golden Rod 1 1/16 M Churchill Downs Kentucky 10 4 2 1
Hollywood Starlet 1 1/16 M (S) Hollywood Park California 10 4 2 1
Old Hat 6 F Gulfstream Park Florida 10 4 2 1
Busanda 1 M Aqueduct New York 10 4 2 1
Santa Ynez 6 ½ F Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Silverbulletday 1 M 70 Y Fair Grounds Louisiana 10 4 2 1
California Oaks 1 1/16 M (S) Golden Gate California 10 4 2 1
Santa Ysabel 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 10 4 2 1
Forward Gal 7 F Gulfstream Park Florida 10 4 2 1
UAE 1000 Guineas 1 M (S) Meydan Race Course Dubai 10 4 2 1
Martha Washington 1 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 10 4 2 1
 
KENTUCKY OAKS CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
 
Race Distance Track Location 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
First Leg of Series              
UAE Oaks 1 3/16 M (S) Meydan Racecourse Dubai 50 20 10 5
Davona Dale 1 1/16 M Gulfstream Park Florida 50 20 10 5
Rachel Alexandra 1 1/16 M Fair Grounds Louisiana 50 20 10 5
Las Virgenes 1 M Santa Anita California 50 20 10 5
Honeybee 1 1/16 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 50 20 10 5
Cicada 6 F Aqueduct New York 50 20 10 5
Bourbonette Oaks 1 M (S) Turfway Park Kentucky 50 20 10 5
Sunland Park Oaks 1 1/16 M Sunland Park New Mexico 50 20 10 5
Second Leg of Series              
Fair Grounds Oaks 1 1/16 M Fair Grounds Louisiana 100 40 20 10
Gulfstream Oaks 1 1/8 M Gulfstream Park Florida 100 40 20 10
Santa Anita Oaks 1 1/16 M Santa Anita California 100 40 20 10
Ashland 1 1/16 M (S) Keeneland Kentucky 100 40 20 10
Comely 1 M Aqueduct New York 100 40 20 10
Fantasy 1 1/16 M Oaklawn Park Arkansas 100 40 20 10
“Wild Card”              
Beaumont 7 F (S) Keeneland Kentucky 20 8 4 2

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