It’s that time of year again—the 2019-2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby will kick off with the $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) on September 14, according to the official schedule released by Churchill Downs on August 22.
The 146th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) will take place May 2 at Churchill Downs, so it’s only fitting that the much-anticipated qualifying series will begin at Churchill with the Iroquois Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile race also serves as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the November 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), which is the most valuable of the early Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races.
While official race dates are unannounced for many of the 2020 preps, the overall schedule and value of Road to the Kentucky Derby races is unchanged from 2018-2019. The series begins with 19 “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” races running through February of 2020, with the vast majority awarding points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 schedule. These races will be followed by 16 “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” events, which offer significantly more points to the top four finishers, including seven top-tier races worth 100-40-20-10 points.
The European Road to the Kentucky Derby (comprised of seven races) and the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby (with four qualifying races) also remain unchanged. Each of these alternative routes to the Derby will award one spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs, which leaves a minimum of 18 runners to qualify via the primary Road to the Kentucky Derby. In 2019 the Japanese-bred Master Fencer successfully utilized the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby as a springboard to Churchill Downs, where he outran expectations to record a sixth-place finish.