Hansen, last year’s champion 2-year-old male and winner of the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), sits atop the official graded stakes earnings list that will likely determine the participants for the 138th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5.
The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975, and graded stakes earnings have helped determine the field for the 1 1/4-mile classic since 1986.
Hansen, owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Harvey Diamond’s Skychai Racing, heads the initial list with $1.16 million in earnings. He’s followed in the top 20 by Union Rags ($830,000), Sabercat ($600,000), Wrote ($556,630), Creative Cause ($488,000), Liaison ($375,000), Dullahan ($375,000), Excaper ($240,736), Algorithms ($240,000), On Fire Baby ($211,729), Drill ($210,000), Alpha ($180,000), Rousing Sermon ($164,000), Prospective ($155,452), I'll Have Another ($151,000), Currency Swap ($150,000), Genten ($123,826), Battle Hardened ($120,000), Brother Francis ($120,000) and the filly Disposable Pleasure ($120,000).
The initial graded stakes earnings list includes all 3-year-olds--males and females--who were made eligible to this year’s Triple Crown at $600 per horse when the early nomination period closed Jan. 21. The late period for nominations at $6,000 each will close March 24.
Sixty-two North American graded stakes events for the crop of 2009 have been run since June 2011–35 for males or open company and another 27 for females. Of the 398 early nominees, 94 have earned graded stakes money thus far. Another 25 open company races and 17 for fillies remain to be run over the next 11 weeks in advance of Kentucky Derby 138.
A trio of graded stakes preps are scheduled for the week ahead: the Feb. 18 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate (1 1/8 miles over Tapeta), the Feb. 19 San Vicente (gr. II) at Santa Anita (seven furlongs), and the Feb. 20 Southwest (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park (one mile).
Twenty horses have entered the Derby every year since 2004, and 11 of the last 13 years. The 20th and final spot in the starting gate has varied year to year. The final horse to make the field last year, Derby Kitten, had $120,000 in graded stakes earnings. Two years ago, it took a record $218,750 for eventual fourth-place finisher Make Music for Me to make the Kentucky Derby lineup as the final horse in. Over the last five years, the final horse to make the field has earned an average of $132,650 in graded stakes races.
Graded stakes are considered those with graded or group status assigned to the race by the International Cataloguing Standards Committee in Part I of the International Cataloguing Standards as published by The Jockey Club Information Systems each year.
In the case of a tie for the final entry position or the determination of all remaining starters, preference is given to horses that accumulated the highest earnings in non-restricted stakes races. If a tie still remains, the final spots in the starting gate will be determined by lot or a “shake.”
For the first time since 1984, there will be an “also eligible” list with as many as four horses eligible to draw into the field until scratch time on May 4 at 9 a.m. ET.
In addition to Triple Crown nomination fees, owners must pay $25,000 to enter the Kentucky Derby by 10 a.m. ET May 2, and an additional $25,000 to start. If there are less than 20 Triple Crown nominees entered, a horse may be supplemented to the Derby for $200,000.
The Kentucky Derby post position draw–a traditional “pill pull” in which horses’ entry blanks are pulled simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine what stall a horse will break from the starting gate–will be held at Churchill Downs May 2, at 5 p.m. ET.
The winner of the Kentucky Derby will receive a gold trophy plus an estimated $1.24 million payday. A total of $400,000 will be awarded to the runner-up, $200,000 to third, $100,000 to fourth, and $60,000 to fifth.