Kentucky Derby Prep Races

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Last updated on August 16, 2020

2020 Kentucky Derby Prep Races

How to Qualify for Kentucky Derby Points

The traditional qualifying factor for horses participating in the Kentucky Derby was total graded stakes purse earnings. Churchill Downs refined the classic earnings method in favor of a points based system on the traditional prep races.

When and Why points?

Beginning in 2013, the Kentucky Derby prep races were officially bundled under the banner of The Road to the Kentucky Derby. Known fondly as the “Derby Trail,” the introduction of the prep series has led to a much easier guideline for both horsemen and horse racing fans. The Derby Trail also allows for more focused promotion of hopefuls targeting the Triple Crown.

There are four groupings that makeup the Kentucky Derby prep race series.
  • The first is the Kentucky Derby Prep Season with 20 races.
    • Beginning with the Iroquois Stakes in mid-September and running through the Southwest Stakes in late-February, each race offers a 10-4-2-1 points split. Except for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November, which boasts a 20-8-4-2 split.
  • The next series is the Kentucky Derby Championship Series which offers 16 races total. Seven of these races deliver a 50-20-10-5 point split. The final prep races double the reward with an offering of 100-40-20-10. The exceptions are the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and Lexington Stakes at Keeneland with a split of 20-8-4-2.
    • The races of highest value include the UAE Derby at Meydan in Dubai, the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park; Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds; Wood Memorial at Aqueduct; Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park; Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park; and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
    • This race series design places a significant value on the most important prep races of the Kentucky Derby overall, as the Fastest Two Minutes In Sports inches closer. The cornerstone prep races attract significant handle as bettors sort out Kentucky Derby contenders and the points system enables the casual fan to understand how horses come to be eligible to participate as opposed to the former graded earnings system.
    • Kentucky Derby winners tend to excel in the “Championship Series” where races are worth the most points. Over the last decade, 9 of 10 Kentucky Derby champions have finished either in first or second place during at least one Championship Series race. The lone exception being 50-1 longshot odds Mine That Bird, who was able to qualify for the Kentucky Derby based largely upon graded earnings accrued earlier in his career.
  • Beginning in 2017, the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby was introduced. This two-race series has expanded to three races for 2018 and consists of the Cattleya Sho, newly added Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (10-4-2-1 points awarded) and the Hyacinth (30-12-6-3). The horse with the most points is granted automatic entry into the Kentucky Derby.
  • The newest addition was the introduction of the Europe Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2017 that featured seven races in Ireland, Great Britain and France. Races include points splits of 10-4-2-1, 20-8-4-2 and 30-12-6-3 in the Burrandon at Newcastle.

List of the 2019-2020 Kentucky Derby Prep Races

Extended Kentucky Derby Prep Races

May 23Matt Winn S.Churchill Downs1 1/16 Miles
June 6Belmont S.Belmont Park1 1/8 Miles
June 21Unicorn S.Tokyo Racecourse
June 27Ohio DerbyThistledown1 1/8 Miles
July 4Los Alamitos DerbyLos Alamitos1 1/8 Miles
July 8Indiana DerbyIndiana Grand1 1/8 Miles
July 8Japan Dirt DerbyOhi
July 11Blue Grass S.Keeneland1 1/8 Miles
July 12Ballysax S.Dundalk
July 16Peter Pan S.Saratoga1 1/8 Miles
July 18Haskell S.Monmouth1 1/8 Miles
Aug. 1Shared Belief S.Del Mar1 1/16 Miles
Aug. 8Travers S.Saratoga1 1/4 Miles
Aug. 9Ellis Park DerbyEllis Park
Aug. 15Pegasus S.Monmouth1 1/16 Miles

Kentucky Derby Prep Season (19 races)
Points: 1st (10) – 2nd (4) – 3rd (2) – 4th (1)

Sept. 14 Iroquois Churchill Downs 1 1/16 Miles
Sept. 27 American Pharoah Santa Anita 1 1/16 Miles
Oct. 5 Champagne Belmont Park 1 Mile
Oct. 5 Breeders’ Futurity Keeneland 1 1/16 Miles
Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Del Mar 1 1/16 Miles
Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club Churchill Downs 1 1/16 Miles
Dec. 7 Remsen Aqueduct 1 1/8 Miles
Dec. 7 Los Alamitos Futurity Los Alamitos 1 1/16 Miles
Dec. 15 Springboard Mile Remington Park 1 Mile
Jan. 1 Jerome Aqueduct 1 Mile 70 Yards
Jan. 4 Sham Santa Anita 1 Mile
Jan. 18 Lecomte Fair Grounds 1 Mile 70 Yards
Jan. 24 Smarty Jones Oaklawn Park 1 Mile
Feb. 1 Robert B. Lewis Santa Anita 1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 1 Withers Aqueduct 1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 1 Holy Bull Gulfstream Park 1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis Tampa Bay Downs 1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 15 El Camino Real Derby Golden Gate 1 1/8 Miles (S)
Feb. 17 Southwest Oaklawn Park 1 1/16 Miles

Kentucky Derby Championship Series (16 races)
Points: 1st (10) – 2nd (4) – 3rd (2) – 4th (1)

Date Race Racetrack Distance
Feb. 15 Risen Star Fair Grounds 1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth Gulfstream Park 1 1/16 Miles
March 7 Gotham Aqueduct 1 1/16 Miles
March 7 San Felipe Santa Anita 1 1/16 Miles
March 7 Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Downs 1 1/16 Miles
March 14 Jeff Ruby Steaks (Spiral) Turfway Park 1 1/8 Miles (S)
March 14 Rebel Oaklawn Park 1 1/16 Miles
March 21 Louisiana Derby Fair Grounds 1 1/8 Miles
March 22 Sunland Derby Sunland Park 1 1/8 Miles
March 28 UAE Derby Meydan Racecourse 1 3/16 Miles
March 28 Florida Derby Gulfstream Park 1 1/8 Miles
Canceled Wood Memorial Aqueduct 1 1/8 Miles
July 11 Blue Grass Keeneland 1 1/8 Miles
June 6 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita 1 1/8 Miles
May 2 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park 1 1/8 Miles
Canceled Lexington Keeneland 1 1/16 Miles


Date Race Racetrack Distance 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Nov. 23 Cattleya Sho Tokyo Racecourse 1 Mile 10 4 2 1
Dec. 18 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun Kawasaki Racecourse 1 Mile 20 8 4 2
Feb. 16 Hyacinth Tokyo Racecourse 1 Mile 30 12 6 3
March 29 Fukuryu Stakes Nakayama 1 Mile 40 16 8 4


Date Race Racetrack Distance 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Sept. 28Juddmonte Royal LodgeNewmarket (GB) 1 Mile (T) 10 4 2 1
Sept. 29 Juddmonte BeresdfordCurragh (Ire) 1 Mile (T) 10 4 2 1
Oct. 6 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère Chantilly (Fr) 1 Mile (T) 10 4 2 1
Nov. 1 Vertern Futurity Trophy Doncaster (GB) 1 Mile (T) 10 4 2 1
Feb. 28 Patton StakesDundalk 1 Mile (S) 20 8 4 2
March 4Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition StakesKempton Park (GB) 1 Mile (S) 20 8 4 2
Apr. 2 Cardinal Condition Stakes Chelmsford City 1 Mile (S) 30 12 6 3

+ New Race Included in Series.
(T) = Turf
(S) = Synthetic
* Race dates and distances to be announced by host track; date based on recent historical placement.
Note: Schedule dates subject to change.