With the postponement of the Kentucky Derby from May to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Derby Trail just got a lot longer. That means the Derby’s qualifying points system figures to get a lot steeper in terms of how many points are required to earn a spot in the starting gate for the Sept. 5 race.

Wells Bayou Winning Louisiana Derby
With his gate-to-wire victory in the Louisiana Derby, Wells Bayou currently leads the Kentucky Derby points standings with 104. He’s a lock for the Sept. 5 Run for the Roses. (Image: Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.)

In a normal year, the cutoff for a spot in the field ranges between 21 and 30 points. Last year, Bodexpress barely squeaked in with 40 points. That’s the highest threshold since the points system was instituted in 2013. And with Churchill Downs officials expected to add races to the Derby Trail, 40 points probably won’t be enough to get in.

The Derby’s qualifying points system works like this: in a normal, non-coronavirus year, there are 35 races that award points to the top-four finishers in each race. Grade 1 and Grade 2 preps in the early spring, such as the recently concluded Louisiana Derby, this week’s Florida Derby, and next week’s Santa Anita Derby, offer more points than lesser races during the winter.

Find Your Way Into The Top 18

The top 18 on the points ladder at the end of the trail are in. Two spots go to the top points-getters in Europe and Japan.

Speaking of the Louisiana Derby, winning that race clinched a spot for Wells Bayou, who now leads the point standings with 104. The winner of Saturday’s Florida Derby will earn 100 points and a starting-gate spot. But with a longer Derby Qualifying Trail, trainers now have a more complex job. Not only do they have to get their charges more points than usual, but they have to figure out how to do it with a deeper schedule of races.

On top of all that, they have to do it while getting their horses to peak in September, rather than in May. This may be the toughest task of all. Further complicating matters are the cancellations of the UAE Derby, the Sunland Derby, and Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct is in limbo, with the suspension of racing at that New York track.

New Trail Races Not Yet Set

Churchill Downs officials are still working out which races will be added to the trail. Meanwhile, the shifting dirt of the Derby Trail means horses that were most likely in the race are now currently on the bubble. That includes the likes of Enforceable (33 points), Storm the Court (32), Sole Volante (30), Major Fed (30), and Tiz the Law (22).

Enforceable missed an opportunity to get off the bubble when he finished fifth at the Louisiana Derby. Major Fed’s fourth-place finish there earned him 10 points, but both still have work ahead of them.

Sole Volante’s next race is yet to be determined. Tiz the Law runs Saturday in the Florida Derby. Storm the Court is expected to run the April 4 Santa Anita Derby. Both that race and the Florida Derby offer 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Running Off The Bubble

With horses on the bubble, there are also horses who raced off the bubble. From the Louisiana Derby, that includes the runner-up, Ny Traffic (50). It also includes those who are already in the Kentucky Derby, such as Modernist (70), who finished third in the Louisiana Derby.

Also in are Authentic (60 and Santa Anita Derby-bound), Ete Indien (54/Florida Derby-bound), Mischievous Alex (50/TBD), Nadal (50/Arkansas Derby-bound), and King Guillermo (50/TBD). With the added races, those horses sitting on 50 points may still have some work ahead to secure their spots.

Kentucky Derby Qualifying Points Leaderboard

The following leaderboard is current through March 22, 2020. Ties between qualifiers were broken based on each horse’s non-restricted stakes-race earnings. Two spots in the Kentucky Derby are traditionally saved for the top points qualifiers in Europe and Japan.

  1. Wells Bayou, 104
  2. Modernist, 70
  3. Authentic, 60
  4. Ete Indien, 54
  5. Nadal, 50
  6. Mischievous Alex, 50
  7. Ny Traffic, 50
  8. King Guillermo, 50
  9. Enforceable, 33
  10. Storm the Court, 32
  11. Sole Volante, 30
  12. Major Fed, 30
  13. Thousand Words, 25
  14. Tiz the Law, 22
  15. Silver Prospector, 21
  16. Excession, 20
  17. Honor A.P., 20
  18. Candy Tycoon, 20
  19. Untitled, 20
  20. Shotski, 19