Essential Quality remains on top, Keepmeinmind moves into second: 2020/21 ‘Road to Kentucky Derby’ Leaderboard

November 29, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  – Following the Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) at Churchill Downs, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner Essential Quality remained atop the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” leaderboard for 2020-2021 with 30 points but Saturday’s winner Keepmeinmind added 10 to his total and moved into second position with 18 overall.

Champagne (GI) winner Jackie’s Warrior is next on the list after the first six races with 12 points and is followed by American Pharoah winner Get Her Number (10) and Iroquois winner Sittin On Go (10).

The ninth annual series of select races will determine the preference list for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) on Saturday, May 1, 2021 by awarding a sliding scale of points to the Top 4 finishers in each race. The 2021 Kentucky Derby will mark the first year the classic race will be run without the permitted use of Furosemide (often referred to by the brand name, Lasix). In a change this year, points will only be awarded to horses who compete on race day without Lasix in Road to the Kentucky Derby races.

The total number of races in the primary “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series features 36 marquee races scheduled. The 20-race “Prep Season,” which features foundation-building races over a minimum of one mile between mid-September and mid-February, are worth 10-4-2-1 to the top four placings, respectively, except for the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), which was worth twice as much (20-8-4-2).

Other “Prep Season” races include the Dec. 5 Remsen, Dec. 18 Springboard Mile, Dec. 19 Los Alamitos Futurity, Jan. 1 Jerome, Jan. 2 Sham, Jan. 16 Lecomte, Jan. 22 Smarty Jones, Jan. 30 Holy Bull, Jan. 30 Robert B. Lewis, Feb. 6 Withers, Feb. 6 Sam F. Davis, February’s John Battaglia Memorial, February’s El Camino Real Derby and Feb. 15 Southwest.

The 16-race “Championship Series” comprise springboard events that often bring the 3-year-old picture into sharper focus. Most first leg races offer 50-20-10-5 points to the Top 4 finishers: the Feb. 13 Risen Star, Feb. 27 Fountain of Youth, March 6 Gotham, March 6 Tampa Bay Derby, March 6 San Felipe, March 13 Rebel and March’s Sunland Derby. The most meaningful races are worth 100-40-20-10: March’s Jeff Ruby Steaks, March 20 Louisiana Derby, March 27 UAE Derby, March 27 Florida Derby, April 3 Wood Memorial, April’s Blue Grass, April 3 Santa Anita Derby and April 10 Arkansas Derby. Additionally, the April 10 Lexington offers points on a scale of 20-8-4-2 to the first four placings.

With increased interest by Kentucky horsemen and Churchill Downs Incorporated’s investment and redevelopment of Turfway Park to enhance winter/spring racing on the Kentucky circuit, the John Battaglia Memorial has been added as a “Prep Season” race and the Jeff Ruby Steaks has been boosted from 20-8-4-2 to 100-40-20-10.

In addition to the primary “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, there are two separate series that each carve out one spot for a potential horse from Europe and Japan.

The fifth-year Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby series again features four races: Saturday’s Cattleya (10-4-2-1 and won by Lemon Drop), Dec. 16 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (20-8-4-2), February’s Hyacinth (30-12-6-3) and March’s Fukuryu (40-16-8-4).

The fourth-year European Road to the Kentucky Derby again showcases seven races: the Juddmonte Royal Lodge (10-4-2-1 and won by New Mandate-IRE), Smurfit Beresford (10-4-2-1 and won by High Definition-IRE), Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère (10-4-2-1 and won by Sealiway-FR), Vertem Futurity Trophy (10-4-2-1 and won by Mac Swiney-IRE), March’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes (20-8-4-2), March’s Patton Stakes (20-8-4-2) and April’s Cardinal Condition Stakes (30-12-6-3).

Churchill Downs has used a point system to determine entrants for its famed Kentucky Derby since 2013. At least 20 horses have entered the “Run for the Roses” in 19 of the last 22 years and every year from 2004-19.

The 1 ¼-mile classic for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds is scheduled to be run at the historic Louisville racetrack for the 147th consecutive year on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

A similar series remains in place to qualify for the Kentucky Derby’s sister race, the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on Friday, April 30, 2021. There will be 31 races for the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series – 16 “Prep Season” races and 15 “Championship Series” races.

Like the Derby, points will only be awarded to horses who compete on race day without Lasix in Road to the Kentucky Oaks races.


36 Races

Kentucky Derby Prep Season (20 races)

DateRaceRacetrackDistance1st (Points)2nd (Points)3rd (Points)4th (Points)
Sept. 5IroquoisChurchill Downs1 MileSittin On Go (10)Midnight Bourbon (4)Super Stock (2)Therideofalifetime (1)
Sept. 26American PharoahSanta Anita1 1/16 MilesGet Her Number (10)Rombauer (4)Speilberg (2)Waspirant (1)
Oct. 3Breeders’ FuturityKeeneland1 1/16 MilesEssential Quality (10)Keepmeinmind (4)Super Stock (2)Upstriker (1)
Oct. 10ChampagneBelmont Park1 MileJackie’s Warrior (10)Reinvestment Risk (4)Midnight Bourbon (2)Civil War (1)
Nov. 6Breeders’ Cup JuvenileKeeneland1 1/16 MilesEssential Quality (20)Hot Rod Charlie (8)Keepmeinmind (4)Jackie’s Warrior (2)
Nov. 28Kentucky Jockey ClubChurchill Downs1 1/16 MilesKeepmeinmind (10)Smiley Sobotka (4)Arabian Prince (2)Swill (1)
Dec. 5RemsenAqueduct1 1/8 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Dec. 18Springboard MileRemington Park1 Mile(10)(4)(2)(1)
Dec. 19Los Alamitos FuturityLos Alamitos1 1/16 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Jan. 1JeromeAqueduct1 Mile(10)(4)(2)(1)
Jan. 2ShamSanta Anita1 Mile(10)(4)(2)(1)
Jan. 16LecomteFair Grounds1 1/16 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Jan. 22Smarty JonesOaklawn Park1 Mile(10)(4)(2)(1)
Jan. 30Holy BullGulfstream Park1 1/16 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Jan. 30Robert B. LewisSanta Anita1 1/16 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Feb. 6WithersAqueduct1 1/8 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Feb. 6Sam F. DavisTampa Bay Downs1 1/16 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)
Feb. 2020John Battaglia MemorialTurfway Park1 1/16 M (AW)(10)(4)(2)(1)
Feb. 2020El Camino Real DerbyGolden Gate1 1/8 Miles (AW)(10)(4)(2)(1)
Feb. 15SouthwestOaklawn Park1 1/16 Miles(10)(4)(2)(1)

Kentucky Derby Championship Series (16 races)

DateRaceRacetrackDistance1st (Points)2nd (Points)3rd (Points)4th (Points)
Feb. 13Risen StarFair Grounds1 1/8 Miles(50)(20)(10)(5)
Feb. 27Fountain of YouthGulfstream Park1 1/16 Miles(50)(20)(10)(5)
March 6GothamAqueduct1 Mile(50)(20)(10)(5)
March 6Tampa Bay DerbyTampa Bay Downs1 1/16 Miles(50)(20)(10)(5)
March 6San FelipeSanta Anita1 1/16 Miles(50)(20)(10)(5)
March 13RebelOaklawn Park1 1/16 Miles(50)(20)(10)(5)
March 2021Jeff Ruby SteaksTurfway Park1 1/8 Miles (AW)(100)(40)(20)(10)
March 20Louisiana DerbyFair Grounds1 3/16 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
March 2021Sunland DerbySunland Park1 1/8 Miles(50)(20)(10)(5)
March 27UAE DerbyMeydan Racecourse1 3/16 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
March 27Florida DerbyGulfstream Park1 1/8 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
April 3Wood MemorialAqueduct1 1/8 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
April 2021Blue GrassKeeneland1 1/8 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
April 3Santa Anita DerbySanta Anita1 1/8 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
April 10Arkansas DerbyOaklawn Park1 1/8 Miles(100)(40)(20)(10)
April 2021LexingtonKeeneland1 1/16 Miles(20)(8)(4)(2)

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