Road to the Kentucky Derby

The Road to the Kentucky Derby is a points system by which horses qualify for a position in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. It features dozens of stakes races for 2 and 3-year-old Thoroughbreds – the number and specific races have changed slightly over the years. The point system replaced a previous qualifying system that looked at earnings from all graded stakes races worldwide.

 

April 30 - May 1, 2021

 

The 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby is a series of races through which horses will qualify for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, which will be held on May 1. The field for the Derby is limited to 20 horses, with up to four 'also eligibles' in case of a late withdrawal from the field. There are three separate paths for horses to take to qualify for the Derby: the main Road consisting of races in North America (plus one in Dubai), the Japan Road consisting of four races in Japan, and seven European races in England, Ireland and France. The top four finishers in the specified races receive points, with higher points awarded in the major prep races in March and April. Earnings in non-restricted stakes races act as a tie breaker.

Although Churchill Downs has not yet made a formal announcement, it is expected that the main Road to the Kentucky Derby will resemble the 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby, consisting of 36 races, 20 races for the Kentucky Derby Prep Season and 16 races for the Kentucky Derby Championship Season. The 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby suffered major disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the postponement of the 2020 Derby itself to September.

 

Prep Season

The dates for most races shown below are based on the placement in the racing calendar from 2020/2021. Similarly, the purses shown below are based on the amounts from the previous year and will be updated when finalized.

Race
Distance
Purse
Track
Date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
Iroquois 1 1/16 miles $200,000 Churchill Downs Sep 5 2020 Sittin On Go Midnight Bourbon Super Stock Therideofalifetime
American Pharoah 1 1/16 miles $301,000 Santa Anita Sep 26 2020 Get Her Number Rombauer Spielberg Waspirant
Breeders' Futurity 1 1/16 miles $400,000 Keeneland Oct 3 2020 Essential Quality Keepmeinmind Super Stock Upstriker
Champagne 1 mile $250,000 Belmont Oct 10 2020 Jackie's Warrior Reinvestment Risk Midnight Bourbon Civil War
Breeders' Cup Juvenile 1 1/16 miles $2,000,000 Keeneland Nov 6 2020 Essential Quality Hot Rod Charlie Keepmeinmind Jackie's Warrior
Kentucky Jockey Club 1 1/16 miles $200,000 Churchill Downs Nov 28 2020
Remsen 1 1/8 miles $250,000 Aqueduct Dec 5 2020
Los Alamitos Futurity 1 1/16 miles $500,000 Los Alamitos Dec 19 2020
Springboard Mile 1 mile $400,000 Remington Dec 20 2020
Jerome 1 mile $150,000 Aqueduct Jan 1 2021
Sham 1 mile $100,000 Santa Anita Jan 2 2021
Lecomte 1 1/16 miles $200,000 Fair Grounds Jan 16 2021
Smarty Jones 1 mile $150,000 Oaklawn Jan 22 2021
Holy Bull 1 mile $350,000 Gulfstream Jan 30 2021
Withers 1 1/8 miles $250,000 Aqueduct Feb 6 2021
Robert B. Lewis 1 1/16 miles $150,000 Santa Anita Feb 6 2021
Sam F. Davis Stakes 1 1/16 miles $250,000 Tampa Bay Feb 6 2021
John Battaglia Memorial Stakes 1 1/16 miles $100,000 Turfway Feb 6 2021
El Camino Real Derby 1 1/8 miles $100,000 Golden Gate Feb 13 2021
Southwest 1 1/16 miles $500,000 Oaklawn Feb 15 2021

 

Championship series events

First leg of series

Note: 1st=50 points; 2nd=20 points; 3rd=10 points; 4th=5 points.

Race
Distance
Purse
Grade
Track
Date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
Ref
Risen Star 1 1/8 miles $400,000 2 Fair Grounds Feb 13 2021
Fountain of Youth 1 1/16 miles $400,000 2 Gulfstream Feb 27 2021
Tampa Bay Derby 1 1/16 miles $350,000 2 Tampa Bay Mar 6 2021
Gotham 1 mile $300,000 3 Aqueduct Mar 6 2021
San Felipe 1 1/16 miles $400,000 2 Santa Anita Mar 6 2021
Rebel 1 1/16 miles $900,000 2 Oaklawn Mar 13 2021
Sunland Derby 1 1/8 miles $800,000 3 Sunland Park Mar 30 2021

Second leg of series

These races are the major preps for the Kentucky Derby, and are thus weighted more heavily. Note: 1st=100 points; 2nd=40 points; 3rd=20 points; 4th=10 points.

x
Race
Distance
Purse
Grade
Track
Date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
Ref
Louisiana Derby 1 3/16 miles $1,000,000 2 Fair Grounds Mar 20 2021
UAE Derby 1,900 metres
(1 3/16 miles)
$2,000,000 2 Meydan Mar 27 2021
Florida Derby 1 1/8 miles $1,100,000 1 Gulfstream Mar 27 2021
Blue Grass Stakes 1 1/8 miles $1,000,000 2 Keeneland Apr 1 2021
Santa Anita Derby 1 1/8 miles $1,000,000 1 Santa Anita Apr 1 2021
Wood Memorial 1 1/8 miles $1,000,000 2 Aqueduct Apr 3 2021
Arkansas Derby 1 1/8 miles $1,000,000 1 Oaklawn Park Apr 10 2021

 

"Wild Card" events

Note: 1st=20 points; 2nd=8 points; 3rd=4 points; 4th=2 points.

Race
Distance
Purse
Track
Date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
Ref
Spiral 1 1/8 miles $200,000 Turfway Mar 20 2021
Lexington 1 1/8 miles $200,000 Keeneland Apr 10 2021

 

Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby

The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby is intended to provide a place in the Derby starting gate to the top finisher in the series. If the connections of that horse decline the invitation, their place is offered to the second-place finisher and so on through the top four finishers. If neither of the top four accept, this place in the starting gate reverts to the horses on the main road to the Derby.

Race
Distance
Track
Date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
Ref
Cattleya Sho 1,600 metres
(~1 mile)
Tokyo Racecourse Nov 28 2020
Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun 1,600 metres
(~1 mile)
Kawasaki Racecourse Dec 16 2020
Hyacinth 1,600 metres
(~1 mile)
Tokyo Racecourse tba
Fukuyru 1,800 metres
(~1 1/8 miles)
Nakayama Racecourse tba

 

European Road to the Kentucky Derby

The European Road to the Kentucky Derby is designed on a similar basis to the Japan Road and is intended to provide a place in the Derby starting gate to the top finisher in the series. If the connections of that horse decline the invitation, their place is offered to the second-place finisher and so on. If neither of the top four accept, this place in the starting gate reverts to the horses on the main road to the Derby.

The series consists of seven races – four run on the turf in late 2020 when the horses are age two, plus three races run on a synthetic surface in early 2021.

Race
Distance
Track
Date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
Royal Lodge Stakes 1 mile Newmarket Sep 26 2020 New Mandate Ontario Cobh Gear Up
Beresford Stakes 1 mile The Curragh Sep 26 2020 High Definition Monaasib Snapraeterea Sir Lucan
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère 1,600 metres
(about 1 mile)
Longchamp Oct 4 2020 Sealiway Nando Parrado Laws Of Indices Libertine
Vertem Futurity Trophy 1 mile Newcastle Oct 24 2020 Mac Swiney One Ruler Baradar Cobh
Patton Stakes 1 mile Dundalk Mar 1 2021
Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes 1 mile Kempton Park Mar 4 2021
Cardinal Stakes 1 mile Chelmsford City Apr 1 2021