The Reshuffled Road Ahead for 2020 Kentucky Derby

A contender for the 2019 Kentucky Derby trains on the main track at Churchill Downs, but the path to the 2020 run for the roses has been anything and everything but normal. (Eclipse Sportswire)

In 2020, you learn to expect the unexpected. So when the  Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve announced that it would run on Sept. 5 instead of the traditional first Saturday in May, the schedule of qualifying races included some new summer events that have never had Derby points attached to them before.

In 2013, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby began a system to qualify horses for the classic race by designating certain prep races with points; the higher the points value of a race, the tougher the competition. That’s because only 20 horses are able to run in the Kentucky Derby each year, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: only Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-old Thoroughbreds are eligible to run.

In normal years, a horse with 30 to 40 points would make the Kentucky Derby field. The horse with the lowest number of points coming into last year’s race was Bodexpress with 40 points; while in 2018, 29 points earned Instilled Regard a spot in the starting gate.

With more than a month left before the big race this year, it looks like the minimum qualifying points may be higher, since the horses lowest on the top 20 list already have at least 30 points to their credit.

The standings heading into August have Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law on top with a whopping 272 points.

2020 Kentucky Derby Points Standings


Points Earned

 1.  Tiz the Law


 2.  Authentic


 3.  Honor A. P.


 4.  Ny Traffic


 5.  Art Collector


 6.  King Guillermo


 7.  Dr. Post


 8.  Ete Indien


 9.  Modernist


10.  Mischievous Alex


11.  Country Grammer


12.  Enforceable


13.  Swiss Skydiver


14.  Shivaree


15.  Max Player


16.  Major Fed


17.  Storm the Court


18.  Thousand Words


19.  Anneau d’Or


20.  Sole Volante


21.  Finnick the Fierce


22.  Pneumatic


23.  Uncle Chuck


24.  Candy Tycoon


25.  Winning Impression


Is this list set in stone? Not at all. With a little more than a month left until the run for the roses, there are still some prep races with qualifying points on the calendar.

  • Aug. 1: Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar: winner gets 50 Kentucky Derby points, 20 points for second, 10 points for third, and five points for coming in fourth.
  • Aug. 8: Runhappy Travers Stakes at Saratoga: 100 points to the winner, 40 points to the horse in second, 20 points to the third-place finisher, and 10 to the horse in fourth place.
  • Aug. 9: Ellis Park Derby at Ellis Park: 50 points for the winner, 20 for its runner-up, 10 for third, and five points for fourth place.
  • Aug. 15: Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park: 20 points to the winner, eight for the second-place horse, four points for third, and two points for fourth.

These races have the potential to seriously upset the Kentucky Derby points standings. While no one will threaten the position of the top 10 or so horses, the bottom half of the field is wide open; a win or second-place finish in any of the points races between now and the first Saturday in September could usher any horse waiting in the wings onto center stage on Kentucky Derby day.

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