The revamped “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series will be inaugurated this weekend as points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in Saturday’s Royal Lodge at Newmarket and FrontRunner at Santa Anita.
In June, Churchill Downs announced it would institute a point system to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and abandon the graded stakes criteria that was used from 1986-2012 to determine which 20 horses would have preference for America’s greatest race.
Condensed to 36 races, points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in each “Road to the Kentucky Derby” race.
The Royal Lodge and FrontRunner (formerly known as the Norfolk) are two of 19 races that comprise the “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” between late September and mid-February in which points will be awarded on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The point values of races within the 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May will escalate by 5X or 10X during the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” which encompasses 17 springboard events to the 1 ¼-mile classic.
The Top 20 point earners nominated to the Triple Crown will earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if more than 20 horses enter the race. The Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975, and at least 20 horses have entered the race since 2004, and 12 of the last 14 years.
If two or more horses have the same number of points, which can often be the case whenever a point system is introduced, preference will be given to the horse with the highest earnings in non-restricted stakes races, whether the races are graded or not.
ROYAL LODGE – Saturday’s 66th running of the Juddmonte Royal Lodge (Group 2) is the lone juvenile race outside North America and the only grass race in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series.
The one-mile race was the launching pad for Breeders’ Cup winners Wilko (2004 Juvenile), Vale of York-IRE (2009 Juvenile) and Wrote-IRE (2011 Juvenile Turf). Two years ago, unbeaten $3.6 million-earner Frankel made his stakes debut in the race and signaled stardom with a 10-length romp.
Saturday’s field of nine includes the Aidan O’Brien-trained Afonso de Sousa, a Henrythenavigator colt who is a half-brother to 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. The race is scheduled for 8:55 a.m. EDT.
FRONTRUNNER – Reddam Racing LLC’s Best Pal (GII) winner Know More will face 10 rivals, including three from the Bob Baffert barn, in Saturday’s 43rd running of the $250,000 FrontRunner (GI).
Three-time Derby winner Baffert, who entered Carving, Den’s Legacy and Power Broker, has won the race a record five times.
California’s steppingstone to the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) will go as Race 7 at 7:07 p.m. ET.
FRONTRUNNER ODDS AND ENDS: The $250,000 FrontRunner (GI), formerly known as the Norfolk, will be run for the 43rd time on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Santa Anita, five weeks in advance of the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) … The Top 4 finishers will be awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively, in the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series … The 1 1/16-mile race, which serves as California’s steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, was first staged in 1970 … Two FrontRunner (Norfolk) winners have won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but it hasn’t happened in 25 years: juvenile champions Chief’s Crown (1984) and Capote (1986). Four winners have run second in the Juvenile: Grand Canyon (1989), Bertrando (1991), Kafwain (2002) and Lookin at Lucky (2009). Three winners have run third in the Juvenile: River Special (1992), Street Hero (2008) and Creative Cause (2011) … Midshipman was the 2008 runner-up and won the Juvenile. Anees was third in 1999 and won the Juvenile … Three FrontRunner (Norfolk) winners were crowned Champion 2-Year-Old Male: Chief’s Crown (1984), Capote (1986) and Lookin at Lucky (2009) … It was a Grade II race from 1973-79 and ’93-95 and 1997-2006 … Returned to Grade I status in 2007, an honor it also held 1980-92 and ’96 … Carded at one mile 1997-2001 … Run at Hollywood Park in 2010 … Race was split into divisions in 1980 … Gato Del Sol (1982) is the lone FrontRunner (Norfolk) winner who exited the race and won the Kentucky Derby the following year. The Eddie Gregson-trained colt finished third in the 1981 renewal behind winner Stalwart and runner-up Racing is Fun … Record of FrontRunner (Norfolk) starters in the Kentucky Derby since 1985: 20-0-2-2 … 1985 winner Snow Chief would go on to win the 1986 Preakness and be crowned that year’s Champion 3-Year-Old Male … Ruler’s Court (2003) holds the stakes record of 1:41.27. He also won the race by a record 14 lengths … Last year’s Top 4: Creative Cause (1:42.66 by 3 ¼ lengths as 1.90-1 second choice), Drill (0.60-1 favorite), Ruler of Dubai and Basmati. Creative Cause was the lone horse to run in the Kentucky Derby. He finished fifth … Trainer Bob Baffert has won the race a record five times: Souvenir Copy (1997), Flame Thrower (2000), Kafwain (2002), Roman Ruler (2004) and Lookin at Lucky (2009) … Jockey Alex Solis has ridden a record seven winners: Snow Chief (1985), Bertrando (1991), Dixie Union (1999), Essence of Dubai (2001), Ruler’s Court (2003), Brother Derek (2005) and Street Hero (2007).
ROYAL LODGE ODDS AND ENDS: The $161,980 Juddmonte Royal Lodge (G2) will be run for the 66th time on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Newmarket (approximately 8:55 a.m. EDT). It is staged two weeks in advance of the Dewhurst (GI) at Newmarket, four weeks in advance of the Racing Post Trophy (GI) at Doncaster and five weeks in advance of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (part of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” Series) … The one-mile turf race over the Rowley Mile is the lone juvenile race outside North America and the only grass race included in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series. The Top 4 finishers in the race will be awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively … Part of the three-day Cambridgeshire Meeting at Newmarket, the Royal Lodge was first staged at Ascot in 1946 … Race was held at Newbury in 1960 and ’63 … Moved to Newmarket in 2005 when Ascot was closed for redevelopment … Permanently transferred to Newmarket in 2011 … Race is named after a royal residence located in Windsor Great Park … Three horses exited the Royal Lodge and have run in the Kentucky Derby: 1995 winner Eltish (6th in the Derby); 2005 third Wilko (6th in the Derby); and 2011 winner Daddy Long Legs, who’d go on to win the UAE Derby but finish last of 20 in the Derby. He was eased after racing close to the pace through the first half-mile … Three horses exited the Royal Lodge and won Breeders’ Cup races: 2011 third Wrote-IRE (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf); 2009 third Vale of York-IRE (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile); and 2004 third Wilko (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) … The Royal Lodge was the first stakes race that unbeaten $3.6 million-earner Frankel-GB (13-for-13) contested. He won the 2010 Royal Lodge by 10 lengths as the 0.30-1 favorite, and would win a Cartier Award as Europe’s Champion Two-Year-Old Colt … 1993 winner Mister Baileys-GB would go on to score a 16-1 upset in English 2000 Guineas (GI) the following spring … 1994 winner Eltish finished second to Timber Country in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs … 1997 winner Benny the Dip won England’s most prestigious classic, the Epsom Derby, the following June … 2008 winner Jukebox Jury-IRE would win the Preis von Europa (GI) at Cologne in 2009 and finish second in that year’s Canadian International (GI) at Woodbine … 2009 winner Joshua Tree-IRE won the Canadian International (GI) in 2010 and was second in defense of his title in 2011 … Nine of the last 21 Royal Lodge winners have raced in North America at some point in their career … Other recent Royal Lodge graduates: 2010 third Treasure Beach-GB won the 2011 Irish Derby (GI) at The Curragh and Secretariat (GI) at Arlington Park; 2010 fifth Slim Shadey-GB was runner-up in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs and Charles Whittingham (GI) at Hollywood Park in 2012; 2008 runner-up Cityscape-GB won the 2012 Dubai Duty Free (GI) at Meydan … Last year’s Top 4: Daddy Long Legs (1:37.70 by 3 ¼ lengths as 2.75-1 second choice), Tenth Star-IRE, Wrote-IRE and Rockinante-FR. Farhaan was fifth of six as the 2.50-1 favorite … Legendary jockey Lester Piggott, known as “The Long Fellow,” won the race a record eight times … The late Sir Noel Murless, who won 19 classics in England and two in Ireland, trained a record eight Royal Lodge winners.
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