The Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby

By Gary Garry
Published on March 06, 2019
Kentucky Derby Qualifying Races 2019 Schedule

There are few, if any, American sporting traditions that can rival the Kentucky Derby.

The 2019 installment will be the 145th running of the race, and there is some big money on the table.

It’s being sponsored by Woodford Reserve, and the guaranteed purse is a whopping $3 million.

The race is restricted to three-year-old colts, geldings, and fillies (though fillies are rarely entered). Every owner and trainer with a quality sophomore wants a piece of that purse, but that’s not the only appeal.

A Kentucky Derby win is the crowning achievement for a career horseman or woman.

And of course, any Derby winner (that’s not a gelding) will be a highly regarded stallion or broodmare after retirement.

Clearly, a lot will be at stake on May 4th, 2019, and it’s not easy to earn a spot in the starting gate.

Road to the Kentucky Derby Points System

There can be 20 entrants in the Kentucky Derby, and there are more than 20 owners that are willing to put up the entry fee and take their chances.

To account for this, the people at Churchill Downs rolled out the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series in 2013.

They have designated over 40 races that comprise the series. The top four finishers in each of these races earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

At the end of the series, the field is determined based on the point totals of the potential competitors.

Most of the races are run in the United States, but Churchill Downs leaves the door open for the top European and Japanese three-year-olds.

There is a “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” that includes seven races, and there is a four-race Japanese series.

How many points does it take to get a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses? Last year, the 20th qualifier limped in with 29 points, and the last entrant accumulated 30 points in 2017.

Where They Stand Right Now

We’re starting to focus on the 2019 Kentucky Derby right around now because the most highly anticipated races are upon us. This being stated, more than half of the qualifying races have already been run.

Since the rankings will change less than a week from now, we’re not going to provide the full rundown here. However, there are three horses that have already cracked the 30-point threshold.

  • War of Will
  • Code of Honor
  • Game Winner

War of Will, trained by Mark Casse, leads the pack with 60 total points. Code of Honor won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park last weekend for Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey. He has a total of 54 points, and Game Winner is third with exactly 30 points.

Game Winner earned his points as a two-year-old when he won the American Pharoah at Santa Anita and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year. The Bob Baffert-trained Candy Ride colt will make his first start as a three-year-old this Saturday in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

The undefeated (4-4) Game Winner is favored at 6-1 in the Kentucky Derby futures at this moment. You can click the links below to see the full futures odds at our approved betting sites.

Kentucky Derby Prep Races on Saturday, March 9th

There are four very meaningful Kentucky Derby prep races being run this coming Saturday. In all, there are 289 Kentucky Derby Qualifying points up for grabs.

The San Felipe Stakes

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/16 miles
  • Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California
  • Points (1st through 4th): 50-20-10-5

Gotham Stakes

  • Grade III
  • 1 mile
  • Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York
  • Points: 50-20-10-5

Tampa Bay Derby

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/16 miles
  • Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Florida
  • Points: 50-20-10-5

Jeff Ruby Steaks

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky
  • Points: 20-8-4-2

Big Prep on Saturday, March 16th

There’s just one qualifying race taking center stage on the pathway to the Kentucky Derby on March 16th.

It’s a notable one because it has produced three Kentucky Derby winners: Sunny’s Halo, Smarty Jones, and American Pharoah, who went on to capture the Triple Crown in 2015.

The Rebel Stakes

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/16 miles
  • Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • Points: 50-20-10-5

The Next Steps Toward Louisville – March 23rd and March 24th

Things start to get hot and heavy toward the end of May, and there are some big points up for grabs.

The Louisiana Derby

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

The Sunland Derby

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Sunland Park Racetrack in Sunland Park, New Mexico
  • Points: 50-20-10-5

Millions on the Line on March 30th and 31st

The Kentucky Derby is unquestionably the ultimate destination for the connections of the horses that are participating in these prep races. At the same time, some pretty serious money can be made along the way, and the races on March 30th offer lucrative purses.

The purse for the UAE Derby equates to $2.5 million USD, and the kitty for the Florida Derby is $1 million.

UAE Derby

  • Group II
  • 1900 Meters
  • Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

Florida Derby

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

On Sunday the 31st, final Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby will be run.

Fukuryu Stakes

  • Non-Listed
  • 1800 Meters
  • Nakayama Racecourse, Funabashi, Chiba, Japan
  • Points: 40-16-8-4

The Penultimate Kentucky Derby Qualifying Races

As March turns into April, the Kentucky Derby prep season starts to reach its conclusion. There are a handful of races with rich histories being held on Saturday, April 6th. When that day is over, the Kentucky Derby field will really start to come into focus.

Wood Memorial

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

Bluegrass Stakes

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

Santa Anita Derby

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

Final Three 2019 Kentucky Derby Preps

The culmination of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series starts on Thursday, April 11th, and it is wrapped up on Saturday, April 13th. After that day, the field will be set, and horse players will anxiously await the Run for the Roses three weeks later at Churchill Downs.

Cardinal Conditions Stakes

  • 1 mile
  • Thursday, April 11th
  • Chelmsford City Racecourse in Great Leighs, England
  • Points: 30-12-6-3

Arkansas Derby

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/8 miles
  • Saturday, April 13th
  • Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • Points: 100-40-20-10

Lexington Stakes

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/16 miles
  • Saturday, April 13th
  • Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Points: 20-8-4-2

Check Back for Weekly Updates!

We will be providing updates each week as these Kentucky Derby prep races are decided, and we will look at the points standings.

If you stay up to date, you’ll have a leg up when it’s time to bet the first leg of the 2019 Triple Crown series.

And after a 2019 Kentucky Derby winner has been crowned, we will turn our attention to the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes that will be run on Saturday, May 18th.

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The Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby
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The Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby
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The road to the Kentucky Derby is an arduous one, but the destination provides a taste of the sweetest fruit in the sport of horse racing.
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