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The Kentucky Derby

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Road to the Roses

The Kentucky Derby title is the most sought after prize in horse racing. It inspires thousands of horses owners, trainers and jockeys. But every year, on that first Saturday in May at the historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, only 20 thoroughbreds will have earned the right to compete.

Before 2013, derby contenders became eligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby if they earned enough prize money during key Graded Stakes races on the Road to the Roses. Now, there is a points-based system where the points get higher during the prep races peaking with the Championship Series in the week prior to the Kentucky Derby on the long Road to the Roses.

2019 Kentucky Derby Prep Races

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Date Race Distance Track Winner 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Apr 13, 2019 Arkansas Derby 1 1/8 miles Oaklawn Park   100 40 20 10
Apr 13, 2019 Lexington 1 1/16 miles Keeneland   20 8 4 2
Apr 11, 2019 Cardinal Condition Stakes   Chelmsford   30 12 6 3
Apr 06, 2019 Santa Anita Derby 1 1/8 miles Santa Anita   100 40 20 10
Apr 06, 2019 Wood Memorial 1 1/8 miles Aqueduct   100 40 20 10
Apr 06, 2019 Blue Grass 1 1/8 miles Keeneland   100 40 20 10
Mar 31, 2019 Fukuryu Stakes   Nakayama   40 16 8 4
Mar 30, 2019 Florida Derby 1 1/8 miles Gulfstream Park   100 40 20 10
Mar 30, 2019 UAE Derby 1 3/16 miles Meydan   100 40 20 10
Mar 24, 2019 Sunland Derby 1 1/8 miles Sunland Park   50 20 10 5
Mar 23, 2019 Louisiana Derby 1 1/8 miles Fair Grounds   100 40 20 10
Mar 16, 2019 Rebel (Div I) 1 1/16 miles Oaklawn Park Long Range Toddy 38 15 8 4
Mar 16, 2019 Rebel (Div II) 1 1/16 miles Oaklawn Park Omaha Beach 38 15 8 4
Mar 09, 2019 Gotham 1 1/16 miles Aqueduct Haikal 50 20 10 5
Mar 09, 2019 Jeff Ruby Steaks 1 1/8 miles (synth) Turfway Park Somelikeithotbrown 20 8 4 2
Mar 09, 2019 Tampa Bay Derby 1 1/16 miles Tampa Bay Downs Tacitus 50 20 10 5
Mar 01, 2019 Patton   Dundalk Playa Del Puente 20 8 4 2
Mar 06, 2019 Road to the Derby Condition   Kempton Jahbath 20 8 4 2
Mar 02, 2019 Fountain of Youth 1 1/16 miles Gulfstream Park Code of Honor 50 20 10 5
Feb 18, 2019 Southwest 1 1/16 miles Oaklawn Park Super Steed 10 4 2 1
Feb 16, 2019 Risen Star 1 1/16 miles Fair Grounds War of Will 50 20 10 5
Feb 16, 2019 El Camino Real Derby 1 1/8 miles (Synth) Golden Gate Anothertwistafate 10 4 2 1
Feb 09, 2019 Sam F. Davis 1 1/16 miles Tampa Bay Well Defined 10 4 2 1
Feb 02, 2019 Withers 1 1/16 miles Aqueduct Tax 10 4 2 1
Feb 02, 2019 Holy Bull 1 1/16 miles Gulfstream Park Harvey Wallbanger 10 4 2 1
Feb 02, 2019 Robert B. Lewis 1 1/16 miles Santa Anita Mucho Gusto 10 4 2 1
Jan 25, 2019 Smarty Jones 1 mile Oaklawn Park Gray Attempt 10 4 2 1
Jan 19, 2019 Lecomte 1 mile 70 yards Fair Grounds War of Will 10 4 2 1
Jan 05, 2019 Sham 1 mile Santa Anita Gunmetal Gray 10 4 2 1
Jan 01, 2019 Jerome 1 mile 70 yards Aqueduct Mind Control 10 4 2 1
Dec 19, 2018 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun    Kawasaki Nova Lenda 20 8 4 2
Dec 16, 2018 Springboard Mile 1 mile Remington Park Long Range Toddy 10 4 2 1
Dec 08, 2018 Los Alamitos Futurity 1 1/16 miles Los Alamitos Improbable 10 4 2 1
Dec 01, 2018 Remsen 1 1/8 miles Aqueduct Maximus Mischief 10 4 2 1
Nov 24, 2018 Kentucky Jockey Club 1 1/16 miles Churchill Downs Signalman 10 4 2 1
Nov 24, 2018 Cattleya Sho   Tokyo Make Happy 10 4 2 1
Nov 02, 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile 1 1/16 miles Churchill Downs Game Winner 20 8 4 2
Oct 27, 2018 October Trophy   Doncaster Magna Grecia 10 4 2 1
Oct 07, 2018 Prix du Jean Luc Legardare   Longchamp Royal Marine 10 4 2 1
Oct 06, 2018 Champagne 1 mile Belmont Park Complexity 10 4 2 1
Oct 06, 2018 Breeders' Futurity 1 1/16 miles Keeneland Knicks Go 10 4 2 1
Sep 30, 2018 Beresford 1 mile (T) Naas Japan 10 4 2 1
Sep 29, 2018 American Pharoah 1 1/16 miles Santa Anita Game Winner 10 4 2 1
Sep 29, 2018 Royal Lodge 1 mile (T) Newmarket Mohawk (IRE) 10 4 2 1
Sep 15, 2018 Iroquois 1 1/16 miles Churchill Downs Cairo Cat 10 4 2 1
Dec 31, 1969 Hyacinth   Tokyo   30 12 6 3
Updated March 18, 2019 bet ★ usracing - Official Kentucky Derby Preps.
All Kentucky Derby Preps Races.

The top 4 finishing horses in each of the prep races that take place over the course of the 2-year-old and 3-year-old season are awarded points that are tallied across all the Derby Prep Races they compete in. In case of a points tie, earnings in non-restricted stakes will serve as a tiebreaker. Horses are then ranked to determine who is eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby and earn those red roses.

A separate Road to the Kentucky Oaks competition is run during the same time period. Fillies that are eligible for the Kentucky Oaks, run at Churchill Downs the first Friday in May, the day before the Kentucky Derby. Any filly running in a race on the Road to the Roses can also use those points for the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

Road to the Roses

The Origin of the 'Road' to the Roses

In the winners circle, the top horse is presented with a beautiful garland made of more than 400 red roses. In 1904 the red rose was adopted as the official flower of the Kentucky Derby, hence the Run to the Roses!

It was New York sports columnist Bill Corum, who dubbed the Kentucky Derby the "Run for the Roses," in 1925. The tradition of the rose is so strong that some owners have even had the flower dipped in silver to preserve it. In fact, a silver-dipped flower from the garland of the 1982 winner, Gato del Sol, is on display in the Kentucky Derby Museum, at Churchill Downs.



Garland of Roses

Garland of Roses

The rose garland is now synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. The first appearance of the rose in the winner’s circle was in1896 when Ben Brush received a floral arrangement of white and pink roses. Today, the Governor of Kentucky and other dignitaries present the garland and the trophy in the winner’s circle at the completion of the Derby. There’s even a song called “Run for the Roses” composed by Dan Fogelberg which was released in time for the 1982 running of the roses.

In 1987, the Kroger Company became the official florist of the Kentucky Derby and it creates the garland in the aisles of one of its stores on the eve of the Derby. It’s typically a scene of long lines where race fans try to catch a peek of the Derby winner's garland of roses. Not your typical trip to the grocery store with winning jockeys signing autographs in the back of the store!

The roses are stitched one-by-one by hand to a green silk backing with the seal of the Commonwealth and Twin Spires on one side and that year’s running of the roses on the other. There is a single rose pointing upward which is said to “symbolize the struggle and heart necessary to reach the Derby Winner’s Circle.” It’s a meticulous process and very labor intensive. The roses are shipped in specially, cut to size then stored in upright vials for the assembly team to get to work, some of whom have been participating in this tradition for more than the 27 years that it’s been Kroger’s job to create the work of art.

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Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, the "twin spires design," "Road to the Roses" and Churchill Downs Incorporated-related trademarks are registered trademarks of Churchill Downs Incorporated or its affiliates (collectively CDI). CDI does not sponsor or endorse, and is not associated or affiliated with US Racing or its products, services or promotions. US Racing provides free information, odds, facts and commentary about the Kentucky Derby and horse racing and betting, in general. Third party marks may be referenced in a transformative, editorial, informational, nominative, critical, analytical or comparative context. US Racing may reference marks belonging to third parties pursuant to our right to engage in fair use, fair comment, statutory fair use or trade mark fair use doctrine. As such, US Racing does not contribute to any dilution of any trade or service marks. US Racing provides this information in an effort to educate and grow the sport of thoroughbred racing in North America with an emphasis on attracting new fans of the sport.