Churchill Downs unveiled the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby on Friday, with two main changes to the series: a new scoring race has been added at Fair Grounds Dec. 26, and a new rule bars horses trained by any suspended individuals from earning qualifying points as of Sept. 30.
That description applies to Bob Baffert, whose Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone after finishing first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1). Baffert was subsequently suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. for two years, through the 2023 Spring Meet. Medina Spirit’s case is still pending before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, awaiting the split-sample results for final adjudication.
Now Baffert runners will be ineligible to score points in qualifying races toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks (G1), beginning Sept. 30. The new rule applies to anyone suspended from the Derby, according to the Churchill Downs release:
“Effective Sept. 30, 2021, points from any race in the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ will not be awarded to any horse trained by any individual who is suspended from racing in the 2022 Kentucky Derby or any trainer directly or indirectly employed, supervised, or advised by a suspended trainer. Should a horse trained by a suspended trainer, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed, supervised, or advised by a suspended trainer, finish in a position that would have earned points in a ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby” race occurring after Sept. 30, 2021, the points associated with that finish position will be vacated.”
The only scoring races prior to the effective date are the respective series openers Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs, where Baffert is already prevented from entering – the Iroquois (G3) that begins the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and the Pocahontas (G2) that kicks off the Oaks trail.
Once again, Furosemide (more commonly known as Lasix) is not allowed in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, and only horses running without Lasix are eligible to score points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby events.
The main Road now includes a total of 37 races. The first 21 comprise the “Prep Season,” with the addition of the inaugural $100,000 Gun Runner S. at Fair Grounds. Like nearly all of the early scoring races, the Gun Runner is worth points on the sliding 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four placings, respectively. The exception during Prep Season is the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar, offering double the points (20-8-4-2). The trail heats up in the spring with the 16-race “Championship Series,” starting with events worth points on the 50-20-10-5 scale, and the final major preps have a 100-40-20-10 points structure.
The two international series, the European and Japan Roads, include the same races. The European events are split between the turf this fall and the all-weather early next year. Two of the Japanese dirt contests are in late fall, with the two decisive races in the spring.
There are now 32 races on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, mirroring the Road to the Derby with a Prep Season followed by a Championship Series. The new stakes is the companion event to the Gun Runner, the inaugural $100,000 Untapable S., to be held on the same Dec. 26 card at Fair Grounds.
The Kentucky Oaks is scheduled for May 6, 2022, followed by Derby 148 on the first Saturday, May 7.