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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

New Derby Points System: Swelling the Ranks?


By Dick Downey

A prevalent idea at this point on the 2013 Kentucky Derby Trail is that the new points system is attracting more horses to the prep races. But is that what's actually happening? An analysis follows.

The bottom line is that while horses are now running for Kentucky Derby points, they formerly ran for graded stakes earnings at about the same rate.

Our analysis covers the past five years and focuses on the five races run so far this year that carry 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, including 50 to the winner: the Grade II Risen Star Stakes, Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, Grade III Gotham Stakes, Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and Grade II San Felipe Stakes.

We see from the chart below that from 2009 to 2012, an average of 47.50 starters per year competed in those five races. This year, there were 49 starters in the same five races.

Broken down by race-by-race, we see the following:

The Risen Star averaged 11.50 starters in 2009 through 2012. This year, there were 12.

The Fountain of Youth averaged 8.75 starters during the same time period and drew nine starters this year.

The Gotham Stakes drew 9.75 on average the past four years and had 11 this year.

The Tampa Bay Derby averaged 9.25 starters between 2009 and 2012, and it had nine this year.

The San Felipe Stakes, the most lightly populated of the five races, had 8.25 starters per year during the prior four years. Eight ran this year.

Year over year, the Risen Star went from 11 starters in 2012 to 12 starters this year. The Fountain of Youth grew from seven to nine. The Gotham declined from 13 to 11. The Tampa Bay Derby declined from 11 to nine, and the San Felipe declined from 10 to eight starters.

The next race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is the Grade II Rebel Stakes this Saturday. The Oaklawn press office says it's expecting a full field of 14, but we think we're starting to see some defections. There were nine starters in the 2009 Rebel, seven in 2010, nine in 2011 and 12 last year. We'll see how things shake out before long.

After the Rebel, the two remaining races with 85 Derby points, including 50 to the winner, are the Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes and the Grade III Sunland Derby on March 23-24. Then we start the series of races carrying 170 Kentucky Derby points with 100 to the winner.

Race Starters 2009 Starters 2010 Starters 2011 Starters 2012 Total Starters -- 4 years  Starters per year -- 4 years Starters 2013
RISEN STAR STAKES  13  12  10  11  46  11.50  12
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH STAKES  10  10  8  7  35  8.75  9
 9  10  7  13  39  9.75  11
TAMPA BAY DERBY  10  7  9  11  37  9.25  9
SAN FELIPE STAKES  6  7  10  10  33  8.25  8
TOTALS  48  46  44  52  190  47.50  49


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