2018-19 Road to the Kentucky Derby Kicks Off With Iroquois Stakes

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September 13th, 2018

The journey ultimately comes full circle; it begins where it ends, and ends where it begins.

That journey, of course, is the 2018-19 Road to the Kentucky Derby, which kicks off on September 15th with the running of the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

It’s only fitting that the Road to the Kentucky Derby should begin at the track where the historic “Run for the Roses” will be held next year on the first Saturday in May. The Iroquois marks the first of 35 official Kentucky Derby prep races offering qualification points to the top four finishers; as usual, the number of points available will increase as the series goes on, beginning with races offering points on a 10-4-2-1 basis and concluding with such prestigious prizes as the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), Florida Derby (gr. I), and Arkansas Derby (gr. I), which offer points on a 100-40-20-10 basis. At the end of the series, which runs through April 13th, at least 18 horses (and as many as 20) will be assured of spots in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.

The slight variance in the number of qualifiers will depend on whether or not starting slots wind up being occupied by the top qualifiers from the 2018-19 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby and the 2018-2019 European Road to the Kentucky Derby, two separate series of prep races that will offer one Derby spot apiece to their top qualifiers.

Whereas the regular Road to the Kentucky Derby is unchanged from last year, with the same schedule of races and the same assignments of points, the Japan and European roads to the Derby have been slightly modified for 2018-19. The biggest change comes in Japan, where the nine-furlong Fukuyru Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse has been added to the schedule as the most important leg of the series, offering 40 qualification points to the winner. In addition, the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki Racecourse has become more valuable this year, offering 20 points to the winner. The first race on the agenda, the Cattleya Sho at Tokyo Racecourse, is scheduled for November 24th.

Meanwhile, the European schedule has been tweaked just slightly, with the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle being replaced by the Cardinal Condition Stakes, a new race scheduled to be held at a mile on Polytrack at Chelmsford City Racecourse on April 11th. The other six races on the schedule remain unchanged, with the series scheduled to kick off with the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II) on September 29th at Newmarket.

The full schedule of prep races for the 2019 Kentucky Derby, as well as the list of races comprising the 2018-19 Road to the Kentucky Oaks, can be viewed here.