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SBD/June 14, 2012/Events and Attractions
Churchill Downs Creates Points System To Determine Kentucky Derby Field
Published June 14, 2012
CH-CH-CHANGES: NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller, whose network broadcasts the Triple Crown, called the change "inspired." Miller said, “We think this concept makes the sport even stronger. It's not too dissimilar to the way the U.S. determines its Ryder Cup team. It's easy for fans to follow.” He added, "It builds the storylines, the matchups. Now you'll have these great horses who have already raced against each other before you get to Churchill Downs and the Preakness. You'll have the rivalries built in." Flanery said, "We looked at every sport that uses points, leagues. We looked very closely at the things they did right and the things we thought maybe didn't work so well. I guess the key message we got out of all of that was try to keep it simple." Churchill management said that its marketing survey showed that “83% of sports fans did not understand what horses must do to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.” Rees notes the prep season will run from “late September to February." Horses in the designated 36 races will be awarded points based on finish: Ten points to winner; 4 points for 2nd place, 2 points for 3rd; 1 point for fourth. The points will increase for the top four horses that finish during the “Championship Season,” which runs late February to late April. Rees notes, “No race less than a mile in distance will be part of the Derby point system,” and if two or more horses “have the same number of points; the tiebreaker becomes earnings in nonrestricted stakes races.” No races “restricted to fillies will generate Derby points” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/14). Rees' story was also run as a USA TODAY Sports Cover story (THE DAILY).
TWITTER REAX: The news garnered some reaction on Twitter, and although some people were disappointed in which races were left out of the points system, the overall response was positive. Lane Gold, horse racing contributor for the N.Y. Times and ESPN, wrote on Twitter, “It is great that Churchill ditched the Grade Stakes earnings for a points system but will still be hard to explain to a novice how it works.” The Paulick Report's Ray Paulick tweeted, “Big ups to CDI execs for coming up with new qualifying points system for #KyDerby. Old Graded Stakes $$$ qualifier no longer made sense.”