M O R EL E S S

The Kentucky Derby

Road to the Roses

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.

2018 Kentucky Derby Prep Races

Date Race Track Points
Date Race Track Points
Apr 15, 2017 Lexington Keeneland 10-4-2-1
Apr 15, 2017 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park 100-40-20-10
Apr 8, 2017 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita Park 100-40-20-10
Apr 8, 2017 Blue Grass Keeneland 100-40-20-10
Apr 8, 2017 Wood Memorial Aqueduct 100-40-20-10
Apr 1, 2017 Louisiana Derby Fair Grounds 100-40-20-10
Apr 1, 2017 Florida Derby Gulfstream Park 100-40-20-10
Mar 26, 2017 Sunland Derby Sunland Park 50-20-10-5
Mar 25, 2017 Spiral Turfway Park 50-20-10-5
Mar 25, 2017 UAE Derby Meydan Racecourse 100-40-20-10
Mar 18, 2017 Rebel Oaklawn Park 50-20-10-5
Mar 11, 2017 San Felipe Santa Anita Park 50-20-10-5
Mar 11, 2017 Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Downs 50-20-10-5
Mar 4, 2017 Gotham Aqueduct 50-20-10-5
Mar 4, 2017 Fountain of Youth Gulfstream Park 50-20-10-5
Feb 25, 2017 Risen Star Fair Grounds 50-20-10-5
Feb 20, 2017 Southwest Oaklawn Park 10-4-2-1
Feb 19, 2017 Hyacinth* Tokyo Racecourse 50-20-10-5
Feb 18, 2017 El Camino Real Derby Golden Gate Fields 10-4-2-1
Feb 11, 2017 Sam F. Davis Tampa Bay Downs 10-4-2-1
Feb 4, 2017 Robert B. Lewis Santa Anita Park 10-4-2-1
Feb 4, 2017 Holy Bull Gulfstream Park 10-4-2-1
Feb 4, 2017 Withers Aqueduct 10-4-2-1
Jan 21, 2017 Lecomte Fair Grounds 10-4-2-1
Jan 16, 2017 Smarty Jones Oaklawn Park 10-4-2-1
Jan 7, 2017 Sham Santa Anita Park 10-4-2-1
Jan 2, 2017 Jerome Aqueduct 10-4-2-1
Dec 10, 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity Los Alamitos Race Course 10-4-2-1
Nov 26, 2016 Cattleya Sho* Tokyo Racecourse 40-16-8-4
Nov 26, 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Churchill Downs 10-4-2-1
Nov 26, 2016 Remsen Aqueduct 10-4-2-1
Nov 19, 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Delta Downs 10-4-2-1
Nov 5, 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Santa Anita Park 20-8-4-2
Oct 8, 2016 Breeders' Futurity Keeneland 10-4-2-1
Oct 8, 2016 Champagne Belmont Park 10-4-2-1
Oct 1, 2016 FrontRunner Santa Anita Park 10-4-2-1
Sep 17, 2016 Iroquois Churchill Downs 10-4-2-1
Updated July 26, 2017 00:00:58. Bet US Racing - Official Kentucky Derby Preps.
All Kentucky Derby Preps Races.

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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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Disclaimer

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.