Bullet Train Pulls Into Derby StationOne thing about the new Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands points system: the buzz it generated certainly outweighed its practical use.
With a projected field of 19-20 entrants, there was no need for a mechanism to determine preference among 21-24 entries because all entries will be able to start.
That's not to say it didn't serve a purpose, though: Handle and interest in Derby Championship Series races (the 85- and 170-point races) was definitely up, and even for an "insider", the points system made it easier to follow the Derby trail. No more worrying about what a fifth-place finish paid in races that had no business being Derby preps (e.g. the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf).
Hopefully the connections of future Derby hopefuls learned something, too, because I think many got psyched out by the specter of needing a certain number of points (some predicted as many as 50!) to reach the Kentucky Derby starting gate, and any horse with more than 6 points could bump Fear The Kitten from this year's field.
Following the Florida Derby, champion Shanghai Bobby had earned 24 points, and many thought that wouldn't be near enough to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate. His connections decided he would get some time off, but I wonder if they're ruing a missed opportunity now, as Shanghai Bobby easily would have made the field.
I was right about the number of points (or lack thereof) needed to get in the Derby, including thinking weeks ago that more than 20 might not even enter, but I was wrong about who would have the most points. That is, I didn't think the top points-getters would also be the wagering favorites, but that's definitely the case with 150-point earners Orb and Verrazano, who I see as first and second choice, respectively.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see which points-related statistics the industry and fans gravitate toward. Certainly they will help define key prep races year to year, but will records for most points by a trainer, jockey, sire, etc. enter the lexicon? What is the reasonable number of maximum points? 190? Will a filly try an open points race next year?
In this regard, the points system is superior to the graded stakes earnings scheme. History is being made before our eyes; we're just still waiting for the first horse to be excluded on points.