Delayed Kentucky Derby Allows Churchill Downs to Add Summer Races as 2020 Qualifiers

Posted on: May 13, 2020, 07:22h. 

Last updated on: May 14, 2020, 08:32h.

As Churchill Downs gets ready to resume racing this weekend, track officials announced Tuesday they have added races to the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying system. That gives horses more chances to accumulate points over the summer and earn a spot in the rescheduled Triple Crown event.

Kentucky Derby COVID-19
With wins in two stakes races, Nadal has more Kentucky Derby qualifying points than any other horse on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs added several summer races as qualifiers for the Sept. 5 race. (Image: Oaklawn Racing)

The Derby was scheduled for May 2. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, track officials had to move it off the traditional first Saturday in May date for just the second time in the race’s 146-year history. Churchill Downs now plans to run its signature race for Sept. 5.

Some of these races have yet to establish their dates. That includes the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, which was set to run in April before the coronavirus forced Keeneland to cancel its meet. The Santa Anita Derby, which was also scrubbed back in April, is back on the schedule for June 6. Winners from both traditional prep races will earn 100 points.

Monmouth Park in New Jersey will also get to host two Derby preps, with the Haskell Invitational worth 100.

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented year, and this year’s Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown will be one of the most memorable of our lifetimes,” said Mike Ziegler, executive director of racing for Churchill Downs Inc. “There are a lot of moving parts and there are still a lot of unanswered questions, including who will be running and when.”

The first of the new points races will take place at Churchill Downs on May 23. The Grade III Matt Winn Stakes will be worth 50 points to the winner. As with the other Derby preps, the top four in each race will earn points on a sliding scale.

Currently, no New York-based races are on the schedule, as it remains uncertain when racing will resume at either Belmont or Saratoga. Churchill Downs officials said they would add at least a race from that circuit. Other races may be added as well.

The complete list of added races can be found here.

Triple Crown Schedule Uncertain

Just as the Derby preps are in flux, so, too, are the subsequent Triple Crown races – the Preakness and the Belmont. Neither of those races has been rescheduled, and it’s possible that either or both races may run before the Derby.

If that indeed happens, Churchill Downs will award 150 points to the winner of either race.

However, some traditions will still be maintained. Even if the Kentucky Derby isn’t the first Triple Crown race, Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers told Wednesday that the field will be open to as many as 20 horses.

That could make for an interesting Run for the Roses if a Triple Crown is on the line and the horse has to overcome a field of 19 competitors.

Baffert’s Nadal Tops Standings

The current leader in Kentucky Derby points qualifying is Nadal. The Bob Baffert-trained colt has wins in the Rebel Stakes and one of the Arkansas Derby divisions to give him 150 points.

In second is Barclay Tagg-trained Tiz the Law, who has 122 points and three wins in four qualifying races. His wins in the Florida Derby and the Holy Bull have been very convincing. However, he’s not faced any of Baffert’s talented colts, although that may change in the months ahead.

With 104 points, Wells Bayou is third thanks to his Louisiana Derby win back in March. However, against Nadal in the Arkansas Derby, the Brad Cox-trained colt faded from the lead down the stretch and finished fifth in the race.

Another Baffert horse, Charlatan, ranks fourth in the standings with 100 points. Considered a late-comer, he made his debut on the Road to the Kentucky Derby earlier this month by winning the second division of the Arkansas Derby.