Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Races

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Last updated on September 15th, 2021

2022 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 make up the Kentucky Derby prep races.
  • The first is the Kentucky Derby Prep Season with 21 races.
    • Beginning with the Iroquois Stakes in mid-September and running through the John Battaglia Memorial in early march, 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 exception is the 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; the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park.
    • 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 further to four races in 2019 and consists of the Cattleya Sho, Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (10-4-2-1 points awarded), the Hyacinth (30-12-6-3) and the Fukuryu (40-16-8-4). 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. Europe Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races include points splits of 10-4-2-1, 20-8-4-2 and 30-12-6-3.

2021-22 USA ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY SCHEDULE (36 races)

Kentucky Derby Prep Season (21 races)

Points for all almost all prep season races: 1st (10) – 2nd (4) – 3rd (2) – 4th (1)
Exception is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile which is worth double points (20 – 8 – 4 – 2)

DateRaceRacetrackDistance
Sept. 18IroquoisChurchill Downs1 1/16 Miles
Oct. 1American PharoahSanta Anita1 1/16 Miles
Oct. 2ChampagneBelmont Park1 Mile
Oct. 9Breeders’ FuturityKeeneland1 1/16 Miles
Nov. 5Breeders’ Cup JuvenileKeeneland1 1/16 Miles
Nov. 27Kentucky Jockey Club Churchill Downs1 1/16 Miles
Dec. 4RemsenAqueduct1 1/8 Miles
Dec. 17Springboard MileRemington Park1 1/16 Miles
Dec. 18Los Alamitos FuturityLos Alamitos1 Mile
Dec. 26Gun RunnerFair Grounds1 1/16 Miles
Jan. 1Smarty JonesOaklawn Park1 Mile
Jan. 1 JeromeAqueduct 1 Mile 70 Yards
Jan. 8 Sham StakesSanta Anita1 Mile
Jan. 22LecomteFair Grounds1 Mile 70 Yards
Jan. 29SouthwestOaklawn Park1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 5Robert B. LewisSanta Anita1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 5Holy BullGulfstream Park1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 5Sam F. DavisTampa Bay Downs1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 12WithersAqueduct1 1/16 Miles
Feb. 19El Camino Real DerbyGolden Gate Fields1 1/8 Miles (S)
Mar. 4John Battaglia MemorialTurfway Park1 1/16 Miles

Kentucky Derby Championship Series (16 races)

Date Race Racetrack | Distance Points
Feb. 19Risen StarFair Grounds | 1 1/16 Miles50-25-10-5
Feb. 26Rebel StakesOaklawn Park | 1 1/16 Miles50-25-10-5
Mar. 5Fountain of YouthGulfstream Park | 1 1/16 Miles50-25-10-5
Mar. 12GothamAqueduct | 1 1/16 Miles50-25-10-5
Mar. 12San FelipeSanta Anita | 1 1/16 Miles50-25-10-5
Mar. 12Tampa Bay DerbyTampa Bay Downs | 1 1/16 Miles50-25-10-5
Mar. 26UAE DerbyMeydan Racecourse | 1 3/16 Miles100-40-20-10
Mar. 26Louisiana DerbyFair Grounds | 1 1/8 Miles100-40-20-10
Mar. 27Sunland DerbySunland Park | 1 1/8 Miles50-25-10-5
Apr. 2Florida DerbyGulfstream Park | 1 1/8 Miles100-40-20-10
Apr. 2Arkansas DerbyOaklawn Park | 1 1/8 Miles100-40-20-10
Apr. 2Jeff Ruby SteaksTurfway Park | 1 1/8 Miles (S)100-40-20-10
Apr. 9Wood MemorialAqueduct | 1 1/8 Miles100-40-20-10
Apr. 9Blue GrassKeeneland | 1 1/8 Miles100-40-20-10
Apr. 9Santa Anita DerbySanta Anita | 1 1/8 Miles100-40-20-10
Apr. 16Lexington StakesKeeneland | 1 1/16 Miles20-8-4-2

2021-22 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby Schedule (4 races)

Date Race Racetrack | DistancePoints
Nov. 27Cattleya ShoTokyo Racecourse | 1 Mile 10-4-2-1
Dec. 15Zen-Nippon Nisai YushunKawasaki Racecourse | 1 Mile 20-8-4-2
Feb. 7HyacinthTokyo Racecourse | 1 Mile 30-12-6-3
Apr. 2Fukuryu StakesNakayama | 1 Mile 40-16-8-4

2021-22 EUROPE ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY SCHEDULE (7 races)

Date Race Racetrack 1st
Sep. 25Juddmonte Royal LodgeNewmarket (GB) | 1 Mile (T)10-4-2-1
Sep. 25Alan Smurfit Memorial BeresfordCurragh (Ire) | 1 Mile (T)10-4-2-1
Oct. 3Qatar Prix Jean-Luc LagardèreChantilly (Fr) | 1 Mile (T)10-4-2-1
Oct. 23Vertem Futurity TrophyDoncaster (GB) | 1 Mile (T)10-4-2-1
Mar. 9Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition StakesKempton Park (GB) | 1 Mile (S)20-8-4-2
Mar. 11Patton StakesDundalk | 1 Mile (S)20-8-4-2
Apr. 7Cardinal Condition StakesChelmsford City | 1 Mile (S)30-12-6-3

(T) = Turf
(S) = Synthetic
Note: Schedule dates subject to change.