First look at the 2015-2016 Enlightened Derby/Oaks Trails

To begin with:
In response to Steven Crist’s opinion for the DRF re the Derby Trail point system, I agree with much of what the columnist says about the failures of the system.   There is, indeed, an ignorance based on financial politics by CDI to protect its own interest.  The Illinois Derby, won by War Emblem in 2002 and a Graded very late into the common Derby Trail, was given short shrift by CDI, whereas the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby, at Oaklawn, are the current final stops on the Trail.   Truly, it shouldn’t hurt to add the Illinois Derby, run at Hawthorne and a week after those 2 races, to be the last ditch opportunity, eschewing what was once the penultimate race, the Kentucky Derby Trail. It is, after all,l a Graded event and it is the best race at that track befitting the Trail.

My version of the Trail, for those of you familiar with my study, takes into account several divisive variables:

  • Geography (tracks grouped in several geographic division), plus a ‘minor’ category for tracks where their best race is ungraded
  • Age (differing point system based on 2YO and 3YO races, along with whether the class of the race is graded or ungraded)

One best race per track (single best race that would fit on the actual Trail, counting all 2YO races from July to December, excluding statebred and restricted races, and 3YO races from January 1 to the week of the Blue Grass Stakes.  In light of recognizing the Illinois Derby, I just might extend my own version of the Trail another week.
These steps eliminate the top-heaviness of reliance of winning at mainly California or NY tracks, and encourages the ‘minor’ tracks to have more of an impact on the Kentucky Derby itself. Guaranteed representation from tracks by size and finances makes for a more fair and historical impact than what is presently constructed.

Introducing this year’s version of the Trail, I borrow from the Bloodhorse website, which generates all stakes races as listed in the National Stakes Conditions Book.  I have included just the 2YO races I have found events for. I have left out certain tracks that I’m confident would have their best representative race in the 3YO campaign instead of 2YO. Belmont is one contentious example, as I do leave out the Tremont and Astoria Stakes, the best races measured by purse until the post-Labor Day period.   Woodbine has a ton of 2YO races.  Japan has several as well; one wonders why Japan or even any European track outside of Dubai gives the actual Derby Trail some representation. As much as I wish to keep the Kentucky Derby Trail to North American runners, I have to consider this as a long-term trend

One tactic I haven’t taken is adding a 2nd race for each track, one for each at 2YO and 3YO if appropo. I already do this for the Breeders Cup track. I’m not yet sure if this is the right solution, but it would resolve the matter of leaving out some lesser races.

Here are some other races that I’m overlooking:
Churchill Downs: Bashford Manor (G3), Debutante
Del Mar: Best Pal (G2), Sorrento (G2),
Santa Anita: Landaluce, Santa Anita Juvenile
Woodbine: Grey (G3), Mazarine

I stand by my decision to skip these races and keep the top 3YO events in its place.

As more races for this year and for next get revealed, I’ll change my Trail up a bit to reflect how it should look for all participants.
Here are the trails as of this typing:

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