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How tiebreakers work for 2023 Road to Kentucky Derby

It comes down to dollars won, and for one horse it’s going to be a sweat to see if they can reach Louisville.

Horses head down the stretch in front of the twin spires in the second race before the 146th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Road to the Kentucky Derby is the path by which horses can qualify for a place in the 20-wide starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Three-year-old mounts receive points for their finish in graded stakes races across the country.

And in one of the closest points races we’ve seen in history, it will come down to the final race next week at Keeneland in the Lexington Stakes. But since the Lexington offers only one-fifth the points of most races at this point in the calendar, we might have the board set already.

Right now there are three horses tied on 18th place with 45 points in Reincarnate, Jace’s Road, and Cyclone Mischief. And since there are just 19 spots available with the Japanese horse Continuar choosing to Run for the Roses, at least one horse with 45 points will be left out, which is a record total for a non-Derby contender.

And as of now that will be Cyclone Mischief, as the first tiebreaker is the amount of money earned by a horse in graded stakes races heading into the first Saturday in May. Reincarnate sits on $263,250, and Jace’s Road has $200,000. That means Cyclone Mischief with just $137,525 in those races is the odd horse out.

But there’s a decent chance not all 19 horses already in the field will make the journey, and Mischief will get the first crack at a spot if it’s available.