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.

2019 Kentucky Derby Prep Races

Date Race Track Winner Points
Apr 14, 2018 Lexington Keeneland My Boy Jack 20-8-4-2
Apr 14, 2018 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park Magnum Moon 100-40-20-10
Apr 7, 2018 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita Park Justify 100-40-20-10
Apr 7, 2018 Blue Grass Keeneland Good Magic 100-40-20-10
Apr 7, 2018 Wood Memorial Aqueduct Vino Rosso 100-40-20-10
Mar 31, 2018 Florida Derby Gulfstream Park Audible 100-40-20-10
Mar 31, 2018 UAE Derby Meydan Racecourse Mendelssohn 100-40-20-10
Mar 30, 2018 Burradon Newcastle Gronkowski 30-12-6-3
Mar 25, 2018 Sunland Derby Sunland Park Runaway Ghost 50-20-10-5
Mar 24, 2018 Louisiana Derby Fair Grounds Noble Indy 100-40-20-10
Mar 17, 2018 Jeff Ruby Steaks Turfway Park Blended Citizen  20-8-4-2
Mar 17, 2018 Rebel Oaklawn Park Magnum Moon 50-20-10-5
Mar 10, 2018 Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Downs Quip 50-20-10-5
Mar 10, 2018 San Felipe Santa Anita Park Bolt d'Oro 50-20-10-5
Mar 10, 2018 Gotham Aqueduct Enticed 50-20-10-5
Mar 9, 2018 Patton (Listed) Dundalk Mendelssohn 20-8-4-2
Mar 7, 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes Kempton Park Gronkowski 20-8-4-2
Mar 3, 2018 Fountain of Youth Gulfstream Park Promises Fulfilled 50-20-10-5
Feb 19, 2018 Southwest Oaklawn Park My Boy Jack 10-4-2-1
Feb 18, 2018 Hyacinth Tokyo Racecourse Sumahama 30-12-6-3
Feb 17, 2018 Risen Star Fair Grounds Bravazo 50-20-10-5
Feb 17, 2018 El Camino Real Derby Golden Gate Fields Paved 10-4-2-1
Feb 10, 2018 Sam F. Davis Tampa Bay Downs Flameaway 10-4-2-1
Feb 3, 2018 Holy Bull Gulfstream Park Audible 10-4-2-1
Feb 3, 2018 Withers Aqueduct Avery Island 10-4-2-1
Feb 3, 2018 Robert B. Lewis Santa Anita Park Lombo 10-4-2-1
Jan 15, 2018 Smarty Jones Oaklawn Park Mourinho 10-4-2-1
Jan 13, 2018 Lecomte Fair Grounds Instilled Regard 10-4-2-1
Jan 13, 2018 Jerome Aqueduct Firenze Fire 10-4-2-1
Jan 6, 2018 Sham Santa Anita Park McKinzie 10-4-2-1
Dec 17, 2017 Springboard Mile Remington Park Greyvitos 10-4-2-1
Dec 13, 2017 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun Kawasaki Le Vent Se Leve 10-4-2-1
Dec 9, 2017 Los Alamitos Futurity Los Alamitos Race Course McKinzie 10-4-2-1
Dec 2, 2017 Remsen Aqueduct Catholic Boy 10-4-2-1
Nov 25, 2017 Cattleya Sho Tokyo Racecourse Ruggero 10-4-2-1
Nov 25, 2017 Kentucky Jockey Club Churchill Downs Enticed 10-4-2-1
Nov 4, 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Del Mar Good Magic 20-8-4-2
Oct 28, 2017 Racing Post Trophy Doncaster Saxon Warrior (JPN) 10-4-2-1
Oct 7, 2017 Breeders' Futurity Keeneland Free Drop Billy 10-4-2-1
Oct 7, 2017 Champagne Belmont Park Firenze Fire 10-4-2-1
Oct 1, 2017 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère Chantilly Happily (IRE) 10-4-2-1
Sep 30, 2017 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Newmarket Roaring Lion 10-4-2-1
Sep 30, 2017 FrontRunner Santa Anita Park Bolt d'Oro 10-4-2-1
Sep 24, 2017 Juddmonte Beresford Naas Saxon Warrior 10-4-2-1
Sep 16, 2017 Iroquois Churchill Downs The Tabulator 10-4-2-1
Updated July 2, 2018 09:31:13. 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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