Odds of Becoming One of The Kentucky Derby 20

April 24, 2023

2022 Kentucky Derby champion Rich Strike. (Coady Photography)

Provided by America’s Best Racing

Exactly how hard is it to get to the Kentucky Derby and be one of the 20 horses in the field?

The Derby (and all Triple Crown races) is only eligible for 3-year-old horses. In 2020, 18,436 registered Thoroughbred foals were born in the United States and about 100,000 are born worldwide each year.

Of that 2020 foal crop, nearly half were born in Kentucky (7,940), followed by Florida, California, and New York.

A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series – but what does that mean?

To run in certain races, you have to nominate the horse – think of it as applying to a college and paying an application fee, followed by a waiting game to see if you’re competitive enough to actually get accepted. The reason to nominate a horse to be eligible is because they were performing well enough to spark hope with 369 teams of people (owners, trainers, etc.) that think their horse has a real shot to start in a Triple Crown race.

How does a horse get a spot in the starting gate on Derby day?

Once made eligible, a tiered points system in select races determines who qualifies. Each year, 20 horses have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to run in the Kentucky Derby. To earn a spot in the starting gate, they must travel along the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of designated races at tracks across the country and around the world. Points are awarded to the top five finishers in each race. The 20 horses with the most points earn a spot in the starting gate.

In other words, you cannot pay any amount of money to get your horse there – the spot is purely earned by proving a 3-year-old racehorse is among the best in the age division.

Kentucky Derby Stats:

Of the 18,436 born in the U.S. there’s a 0.1% chance they are in the list of 20 that earn a spot in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby.

Of the 369 3-year-olds that are nominated, there’s a 5.4% chance they are in the list of 20 that earn a spot in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby.

Of 32 NFL teams, there’s a 6.25% chance you play in the Super Bowl.

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