Churchill to Review Derby Starters Policy

Churchill to Review Derby Starters Policy
Photo: Courtesy Churchill Downs
Kevin Flanery

The president of Churchill Downs said the track will take a close look at the policies for the 20-horse starting field for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with consideration being given to permit another horse to be added if a horse is scratched.

“To me, it’s that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Churchill Downs track president Kevin Flanery May 8, one day after the 137th renewal of the classic. “We have a great race and want to make sure everyone has a chance to run.”

Presently, the Derby field is limited to 20 runners, with preference given on the basis of purses earned in graded stakes races. Once the entries are taken on the Wednesday before the race, no other horses can be added should one of the 20 entrants drop out, as has been the case in two out of the last three years.

If an “also eligible” system was used for the Derby, as it is for nearly all races run in North America, the next horse on the list would be able to run in the event of a scratch.

This year, Repole Stable’s Uncle Mo   was entered May 4 but scratched on May 6 due to internal health problems. Two horses that were entered—Sway Away and Ruler on Ice—were excluded because they were not among the top 20 in graded earnings. Two years ago, favored I Want Revenge   was scratched on the morning of the Derby. In both years, the Derby was run with only 19 starters, instead of 20.

Flanery said because the Derby is such a special race, every effort should be made to ensure that as many horses as possible run in the race.

“We have set the field at 20,” Flanery said. “But if you are number 21, then you should have a chance to run (if there is a scratch).”

The track executive said the procedures for not permitting horses to be added once the field is set is one part of the Derby that is reviewed every year to see if changes need to be made. But considering that twice in the last three years there have been scratches with no ability of another horse to be able to run, the policy needs even closer scrutiny now.

“We evaluate everything every year, but this one we will take a closer look at in view of recent developments,” Flanery said. “We will be asking if there is a hybrid, something in between (an also eligible list and current policy).

“The process we have right now may be the best way to do it. I don’t know that we will make a change.”
 

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