A Guide to Understanding Kentucky Derby Entries: How Horses Qualify

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse racing events in the world, drawing large crowds and capturing the attention of millions of viewers. Each year, a select group of horses competes for the chance to run in this iconic race. But how do horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby? In this guide, we will explore the process and criteria for Kentucky Derby entries.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby: Points System

To determine which horses make it into the Kentucky Derby, a points system known as “The Road to the Kentucky Derby” has been implemented. This system awards points to horses based on their performance in designated races leading up to the main event. The higher a horse’s point total, the better its chances are of securing a spot in the starting gate.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby consists of a series of races held at various tracks across North America. These races are categorized as either “preps” or “championship series” events. Preps offer lower point values compared to championship series races, but they still play a crucial role in determining which horses qualify.

Championship Series Races: Higher Stakes

The championship series races hold more weight when it comes to earning points for Kentucky Derby entries. These races are typically held closer to the actual date of the Kentucky Derby and offer significantly higher point values than preps.

There are three distinct phases within the championship series: Prep Season, Championship Season, and Triple Crown Series. The Prep Season consists of designated races early in the year where horses can earn points toward qualifying for later stages. The Championship Season includes additional qualifying races leading up to those that offer maximum points.

The final phase is known as Triple Crown Series, which comprises seven major stakes races including iconic events like Santa Anita Derby and Arkansas Derby. These prestigious races offer substantial amounts of points that can significantly impact a horse’s chances of making it into the Kentucky Derby.

Tiebreakers and Final Determination

In the event of a tie in points, the final determination for Kentucky Derby entries is based on several tiebreakers. The first tiebreaker is earnings in non-restricted stakes races, meaning races where horses are not limited to competing against horses bred in a particular state or region.

If there is still a tie after considering earnings, the next tiebreaker is lifetime earnings. Horses with higher lifetime earnings will be given priority over those with lower earnings. If necessary, the final tiebreaker is determined by a random drawing.

Once all ties have been resolved and the points standings have been finalized, the top 20 horses with the highest point totals earn their spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. This competitive selection process ensures that only the most deserving horses compete in this prestigious race.


Qualifying for the Kentucky Derby is no easy feat for racehorses. The Road to the Kentucky Derby points system has revolutionized how entries are determined, bringing more excitement and competition to horse racing enthusiasts worldwide. From preps to championship series races, every point earned counts towards securing a coveted spot in this historic event. So when you watch the Kentucky Derby next time, remember that these talented horses have overcome numerous challenges and obstacles to earn their place on that starting line.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.