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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Churchill Downs is calling it, "one of the most essential developments in the storied history of the Kentucky Derby."
According to a news release, the track is abandoning the criteria it has used since 1986 to determine which 20 horses get into the starting gate for the 1-1/4-mile classic on the first Saturday in May.
It is trading in its graded stakes earnings criteria for a point system.
The new point system, officially branded as the "Road to the Kentucky Derby", will feature 36 stakes races overall and include 17 marquee events for the 3-year-old Thoroughbreds that comprise a compact, 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May to be known as the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series."
The change will be in effect for the 139th running of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 4, 2013.
Also, the $1 million Kentucky Oaks, the Derby's 3-year-old filly counterpart run on the day before the Derby on Friday, May 3, 2013, will adopt a similar point system for selecting its maximum of 14 starters.
The "Road to the Kentucky Derby" point system was created to establish a clear, practical and understandable path to the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, as opposed to the approximately 185 graded stakes races worldwide – including 60 open races and another 43 races restricted to fillies in North America – that counted toward the Derby selection under the previous eligibility process.