There are 400,000 reasons to run the Holy Bull on Saturday. Still, the allure of the Kentucky Derby has grown so strong that its new points system is overshadowing the monetary worth of the race at Gulfstream Park.
The Holy Bull, expanded this year to a 1 1/16-mile, two-turn race from a one-turn mile, will only yield the winner 10 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby -- the same amount finishing fourth in a major Spring prep will produce. There is an inevitable dimunition in the Holy Bull's value to Kentucky Derby fans. But the winner still earns $240,000, and that’s not chump change.
The fact remains that winning the Holy Bull now means getting only a quarter of the points some estimate it will take to make the cut in Louisville. But on the other hand, only two horses have 20 or more points now, and viewed that way, getting 10 points with a win is worth a lot. But the also-ran points of 4-2-1 don’t inspire.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Holy Bull was a $150,000 race. Pumping up the purse to $400,000 added prestige and lucre to the event, and the winner’s share almost assuredly gave connections enough graded earnings to make the Kentucky Derby. Furthermore, it gave them the luxury of choosing many different options between the last Saturday in January and the first Saturday in May.
So what we are seeing at this early point on the sophomore Road to the Kentucky Derby is a race with a points value out of whack with its monetary worth. Things will return to more of a state of equilibrium the following Saturday. The Gotham is worth $200,000.
Now that Churchill Downs has taken more control of how contenders make it to the Derby, the dog is wagging the tail. And perhaps this means that purses in the Florida prep races need adjustment next year. For example, the Holy Bull, now worth $400,00, could be reduced to $200,000. The Besilu Fountain of Youth, now also worth $400,000 -- and 50 points to the winner -- could be increased to $600,000. Next in the progression would the Besilu Florida Derby, with its $1,000,000 purse and 100 points to the winner.
The present disconnect between purse and points isn’t going to stop several of top-ranked 3-year-olds from finding out where they are on Saturday. The spectacle of eight or 10 youngsters trying to upset the reigning 2-year-old champ is meritorious in its own right. And regardless of the outcome, we will be entertained.
From a more utilitarian perspective, one thing the Holy Bull does is give connections the flexibility to race twice more before the Kentucky in order to get points, if needed. But three times hasn’t been the charm lately. The last six winners of the Kentucky Derby have raced twice at age three before winning the roses.