|Tuesday 27th December 2022
Eyes Down to Chase Glory and Big Bucks
The race is on for 20 horses to qualify for the US$3million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby, which will take place at the Churchill Downs track on 6 May.
A tiered point system in select races, introduced for the eighth year on the bounce, determines who gets to race in America’s showpiece that attracts European royalty and high-profile celebrities.
With an annual cap of just 20 horses, potential competitors compete in a series of races known as the Road to the Kentucky Derby. These are run in Dubai, England, France, Ireland, Japan and North America.
There’s a total of 37 races around the world for hopeful contenders to try to finish in the top four in order to earn points. Those leading 20 horses with the highest number of points get to earn a place in the starting gate for the highly-lucrative race on the first Saturday in May.
Also up for grabs are a quartet of reserve spots, in the event of any late withdrawals from the field, which are referred to as the “also eligibles”.
Although only the top four finishers in the specified races are able to win points, there are higher points awarded in the major prep races in March and April.
Horses can try their luck at just a trio of separate paths to take to qualify for the 149th Kentucky Derby, which extends an invite to a one horse rider from Europe and Japan.
- main Road to the Kentucky Derby, which consists of races in North America (plus one in Dubai). Namely 21 races for the Kentucky Derby Prep Season and 16 races for the Kentucky Derby Championship Season;
- European Road to the Kentucky Derby (seven races in England, Ireland and France), and;
- Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby (four races).
During these racing events, fans who love participating in online platforms for betting and casino games like free Megaways slots become extremely excited by the fervour of the race for glory.
Qualifying for the Road to the Kentucky Derby hots up on New Year’s Day with initial prep one mile races for three-year-old thoroughbreds taking place at the Jerome Stakes (Aqueduct Racetrack, which is located adjacent to the Resorts World New York City casino) and the Smarty Jones Stakes on dirt (Oaklawn Park Race Track in Hot Springs, Arkansas).
The Sham Stakes, also a one mile race, takes place at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on 8 January. The El Camino Real Derby over nine furlongs, Northern California’s premier prep, concludes the 14-race prep races on 11 February at the Golden Gate Fields in Albany.
Seven select prep races kick off with the Lecomte Stakes, to be run on the dirt at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans on 21 January, and ends with the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park near Florence in Kentucky on 25 February.
Then the Championship series events arrive and last until early April, with seven first leg races followed by eight second leg races that include the US$2m purse of the UAE Derby over 9.5 furlongs. This annually takes place on the dirt at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on the final Saturday in March, during the Dubai World Cup Night.
There’s one Wild Card event, which offers less points but nevertheless is just as competitive, with the Lexington Stakes held in mid-April at the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky and concludes the North American set of races.
The European Road to the Kentucky Derby offers a single place in the Kentucky Derby starting gate to the top finisher in the series. The series saw four races run on the turf in late 2022, when horses are aged two, with three races run on a synthetic surface in early 2023.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes will take place at Kempton Park in Surrey on 1 March. Two days later Ireland plays host to the Patton Stakes at the Dundalk Stadium in County Louth. The Cardinal Stakes at Chelmsford in Essex concludes the European interest at the end of March.
Only the top finisher in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby is offered an invitation to race in May’s main event. The four races began with Continuar triumphing at the Cattleya Sho on the Toyko Racecourse in November. Derma Sotogake won the second race, the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, at the Kawasaki Racecourse in mid-December.
The last two events, the Hyacinth Stakes at the Toyko Racecourse and the Fukuryu Stakes at Chiba’s Nakayama Racecourse, will determine who qualifies for May’s pinnacle showdown.