Races from the early fall to early winter will be worth only 10 points to the winner. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner will get the same as the winner of the Lecomte Stakes.
The next tier of races — generally the second-to-last prep for Derby hopefuls — will be worth 50 points to the winner, 20 for second and so on. These would include races such as the Fountain of Youth and Spiral Stakes.
The top tier — usually the final prep — will be worth 100 points for first and 40 for second. These would include every serious race 5 weeks or so from the Derby — the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Arkansas Derby, Santa Anita, Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.
It is estimated that, most years, it will take 40 points to make the top 20. If there is a tie, it will be broken by total earnings in stakes races.
Interestingly, if the system had been in place earlier this century, it is very possible neither 2005 winner Giacomo nor 2009 winner Mine That Bird would have made the field. Giacomo — second in the Hollywood Futurity, third in the Sham, second in the San Felipe and fourth in the Santa Anita Derby — would have had 36 points under the new system. Mine That Bird (winner of the Grey Stakes and fourth in the Sunland Derby) would have gotten only 15 points. So, in an oversubscribed field, both could have been out.
Going into the 2006 Florida Derby, Barbaro would have had only 10 points for winning the Holy Bull. His two wins in grass stakes would not have counted. Barbaro, of course, won the Florida Derby and would have had 110 points under the new system.
Barbaro's stablemate Showing Up may very well not have made the 2006 Derby. His only stakes win was in the Lexington and that is worth 20 points. Showing Up ended up running pretty well until fading to sixth. The colt turned out to be a grass star, winning two Grade I stakes and four overall.
The graded stakes earnings rule has been in force since 1986. What the new rule does is make certain there are no free passes for horses that win slot-infused purses against weak competition as 2-year-olds or just win sprint stakes. Its emphasis on the last round of preps is designed to give the hot horses capable of competing at longer distances the best chance at a spot.
There are always unintended consequences. Imagine a horse that wins the Hopeful, Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. After being named 2-year-old champion, the colt suffers an injury, does not get back until the last or second-to-last round of preps. He runs fourth in the Fountain of Youth and a rallying third in the Florida Derby, as his trainer gets him ready to peak on Derby Day. That would give the horse 45 points. It might be close for a horse that clearly deserves to be in the field.
Whatever goes down, this points system is better than just graded stakes earnings. Starting in 2013, we shall see just how well it works in practice. n
Contact Dick Jerardi at email@example.com.