Points make the grade, tooOver on the Twitters, Chris Rossi of @O_Crunk fame is fond of chiding me for sticking up for a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands qualifying system that now uses points rather than graded stakes earnings to determine the field if more than 20 horses enter.
@heylaserbeam @petedenk I get pure, unadulterated satisfaction that @ejxd2 has to defend point system that not long ago he woulda laughed at
— o_crunk (@o_crunk) January 18, 2013
Indeed, back in March 2010 I wrote a paean to the graded stakes earnings system that dared anyone to think that a points system could be superior.
One of the things gambling has taught me is that there's no perfect system. The martingale eventually collapses under the weight of table limits, and "angles" in horse racing (e.g. best last-out figure) eventually lose their edge in a pari-mutuel format.
And so it goes with Derby qualifying rules, too. The new system isn't perfect but nor was the old system. Lost in all the consternation of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner no longer being guaranteed a spot in the Derby starting gate is that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Turf, and Juvenile Fillies Turf winners aren't either.
That Shanghai Bobby isn't yet guaranteed a spot in the Derby is a big reason why we saw him in the Holy Bull Stakes this past weekend. Do you think Uncle Mo would have run in the Timely Writer Stakes if the points system was in place in 2010-2011?
Another Breeders' Cup Juvenile comparison people make is to lament that the race is "worth the same as the Delta Jackpot" or "the four-horse Bob Lewis." What they don't acknowledge is that it's also no longer the most important race, as it was when it worth $2-million rather than
I am not arguing for or against the BC Juvenile being worth 10 points to the winner, but I absolutely do think it's a positive that it and all other Breeders' Cup races are no longer automatic qualifiers and that it's no longer the most valuable race for qualifying purposes.
Also lost in the conversation is that spots one through 19 really don't matter. Oh, sure, those higher in the standings might attract more money from casual fans who recognize the names, but in terms of the purpose of the system, a billion points in first is the same as ten points in 19th.
And 20th only matters if there's a horse in 21st. It's not a given that more than 20 will enter. The wailing and gnashing of teeth four months out about which horses might be left out doesn't seem to reflect the real possibility that no horse will be left out.
Admittedly when this all began I had my doubts whether the new points system would achieve its stated goal of being more accessible to fans and help build drama on the Road to the Derby, but I'm happy to report that initial returns (albeit based mostly on anecdotal evidence) appear that I was wrong, and that the system is in fact helping drum up more interest not only in the races but also both the horses and competitions involved in the build up.
Be sure to check out HelloRaceFans.org for updated information on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (and Oaks!), including schedules, standings, etc. And sign up for its Derby Prep Alert e-mail for info on the big races including free Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances (PPs) for each race!