Kentucky Derby Points System Doing Its Job
Category : News
Sun 08/05/2016 - 19:54 EDT
There will always be Kentucky Derby entrants that would be much better suited to skip the race entirely and find a better spot if not for the gusto of their well-meaning owners, but the Road to the Derby point qualifying system has been remarkably efficient at making the race more of a level-playing field since its inception four years ago.
In each of the last four years, the Kentucky Derby winner has been the post time favorite and the most credentialed runner in the field. Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah and Nyquist all captured the Derby at favored odds of lower than 4/1 - a distinct departure from recent history where the favorite only triumphed once from 2000-2012. Simple analysis of this evidence suggests the Kentucky Derby point system has been doing its job. Gone are the days when owners struck by Derby Fever were permitted to enter sprinters by virtue of their graded earnings in non-route races.
Sacrificial speed no longer in play
In years past horses like Spanish Chestnut, Songandaprayer, Keyed Entry and a myriad of others were entered in the mile and a quarter race with almost no shot of being able to handle the distance or do much else than set a torrid early pace. Of course, the result was that many a favorite in possession of natural speed were coaxed into running much quicker early splits, softening them late for the improbable late kick of a lesser-credentialed closer. Not coincidentally, California Chrome, American Pharoah and Nyquist all won the Derby by laying close to the early pace.
A positive trend
As a group, horse players tend to have more gripes and complaints than the general public, so those lamenting having their Derby horse sacrificed by the whims of an ill-spotted sprinter no longer have a valid claim. The recent trend of Kentucky Derby favorites is attributable to the effectivness of the Kentucky Derby Run for the Roses point system.
On Saturday at Keeneland, the featured race is the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes. Scheduled to be run at one mile on the turf, the Grade 2 event has drawn a field of eight colts and geldings.
With a largely underwhelming, and thus far, slow, group of three year-olds set to contest the 2016 Kentucky Derby, logical handicappers searching for a pick outside of the undefeated and likely highly-favored Nyquist may have already begun the hand-wringing process.
On Friday at Oaklawn Park, the featured race is the $600,000 Apple Blossom Stakes. Restricted to fillies and mares, the Grade 1 event will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track and has drawn a field of six.
The Grade 1, $300,000 Madison Stakes features a stellar field April 9 at Keeneland as 13 fillies and mares are set to contest the seven furlong event on the main track.