Churchill Downs Press Release: The 38th running of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade III) at Tampa Bay Downs will replace Canada’s Grey Stakes (GIII) on the list of 35-select races that comprise the 2016-17 “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” Churchill Downs officials announced Monday.
Since 2013, Churchill Downs Racetrack has used a sliding scale of points awarded to the Top 4 finishers in choice races to determine preference for its 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, which will be run for the 143rd time on Saturday, May 6, 2017.
As has been the case for the past three years, the Road to the Kentucky Derby “Prep Season” will commence at the home of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Sept. 17 with Churchill Downs’ $150,000 Iroquois (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles. Points awarded during the “Prep Season” are worth 10-4-2-1, respectively, except for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which is worth twice as much (20-8-4-2).
Mid-February’s Sam F. Davis, the 1 1/16-mile race during the “Prep Season” that serves as a stepping stone to the Tampa Bay Derby (GII), returns to the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series for the first time since 2013. It will replace the Grey, a 1 1/16-mile juvenile race over Woodbine’s Tapeta surface in early October that has lured six or less starters in three of its last four runnings.
The 16 significant events that comprise the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” during the 10-week run-up to the first Saturday in May remain unchanged from a year ago.
This is the fifth consecutive year that Churchill Downs Racetrack will utilize a point system to determine entrants for its famed $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). At least 20 horses have entered the 1 ¼-mile classic for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds every year since 2004, and 16 of the last 18 years.
One spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate could go to a Japan-based horse, thanks to a new partnership between Churchill Downs Incorporated and the Japan Racing Association (“JRA”). On Monday, the two entities announced the new “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby,” which is separate from the 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”
The “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby” features two one-mile dirt stakes races at Tokyo Racecourse: the Cattleya Sho for 2-year-olds on Nov. 26 and the Hyacinth for 3-year-olds to be run in early 2017. The horse that accrues the most points in the “Japan Road to the Kentucky” will have first preference to compete in the Kentucky Derby. Points awarded to the Top 4 finishing positions in the Cattleya Sho will be 40-16-8-4, respectively, while the Hyacinth will carry a point value of 50-20-10-5. The points were structured to avoid an automatic qualifier for the winner of one particular race over the other.
Elsewhere, a similar series remains in place to qualify for the Kentucky Derby’s sister race, the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) for 3-year-old fillies on Friday, May 5, 2016. The lone change to the 30-race “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series is the removal of Woodbine’s Mazarine (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies.
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