Updated: April 3, 2013, 9:07 AM ET


New points system doesn't add up for fillies

By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

Political correctness be damned: This year's Kentucky Derby is not welcoming females, at least female horses. They'll just have to mind their place and show up a day earlier in the less prestigious, less lucrative Kentucky Oaks.

The way they allot starting spots in the Kentucky Derby this year was changed, and the new system ought to have feminists everywhere up in arms. They've made it very difficult for a female horse to run in the Derby, a race fillies have won three times.

Only 20 horses are allowed to run in the Kentucky Derby, and actually getting into the race can be half the battle. Prior to this year, the spots were given to the 20 horses who had made the most money in graded stakes events. Graded stakes are considered the top echelon events in the sport. It didn't matter if the graded stakes was a sprint, a marathon, on the grass or the dirt, or for fillies or colts. If you had enough graded earnings, you were in.

On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, a phenomenal filly named Dreaming of Julia won the Gulfstream Oaks Stakes by 21 3/4 lengths. In what was arguably the best performance by any 3-year-old horse this year, she ran the mile-and-an-eighth distance in 1:48.97. Four races later and at the same racetrack, Orb won the Florida Derby by 2 3/4 lengths and finished the mile-and-an-eighth in 1:50.87. All things being equal, and based on the times of the two races, Dreaming of Julia would have beaten Orb by about 10 lengths.

Orb is on his way to the Kentucky Derby, where he'll be one of the favorites. Dreaming of Julia most likely won't be allowed to race in the Derby.

Another very good filly also had a very good day Saturday. At Fair Grounds, Unlimited Budget stayed undefeated by winning the Fair Grounds Oaks. Dreaming of Julia and Unlimited Budget are both trained by Todd Pletcher and both seem capable of beating the best of the boys.

This year, Churchill Downs changed the system for getting into the Derby. Instead of basing it on money earned in graded stakes races, officials went to a points system. Points are awarded based on how horses perform on the way to the Derby, but only in certain races. Races restricted to fillies, like the Gulfstream Oaks, do not count. For her tour-de-force performance Saturday, Dreaming of Julia got no closer to the Derby than did the last-place finisher in a claiming race at Podunk Downs.

Is that fair? The old boys club over at Churchill Downs can always argue that if her owner and trainer were convinced that Dreaming of Julia was that good in the first place, they should have run her against the boys in the Florida Derby. Had she won that race, she would have been guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

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• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com

Far more to Derby experience than one race

By Amanda Duckworth | Special to ESPN.com

Carla Terwilleger art
Photo courtesy Carla TerwillegerNothing says Kentucky Derby quite like the Twin Spires, big hats and mint juleps.

For the rest of the world, the Kentucky Derby might be the greatest two minutes in sports, but for its hometown of Louisville, it often works its way into family traditions and professional lives.

Case in point: artist Carla Terwilleger.

The evening of April 19, the Louisville native will debut her "Twiggy Originals Second Annual Derby Collection: Derby City Glamour" at Regalo on Fourth Street. The show will be up for three days and available for private showings afterward.

"Since they're in the hype of downtown, and Thunder Over Louisville is April 20, we thought it would be a great way to kick off the Derby festivities," Terwilleger said. "They have an amazing space with great light that lends itself perfectly to artwork -- especially the colorful and glitterful Twiggy Originals paintings."

Part of Louisville's Kentucky Derby Festival, Thunder Over Louisville is the nation's largest annual fireworks event. The day-long celebration also features one of the top air shows in the country, and those in the know show up early in the day to stake their claim on prime viewing spots.

Last year, more than 400,000 spectators gathered on the banks of the Ohio River to take part. You read that right … 400,000. For Thunder Over Louisville, that is actually a low attendance figure, as Mother Nature kept patrons away.

The record for attendance occurred in 2006 and '07, when the event drew an estimated 800,000 people. Keep in mind, that figure doesn't include the thousands of people who watched from area rooftops at parties that boasted views of the fireworks.

"It's truly the prelude to the summer," Terwilleger said of the run-up to the Run for the Roses. "Derby wakes this city up. The excitement mixed with colorful and fun fashions gets everyone out of the house, where they've been cuddled all winter, and into the sunshine. It's a celebration of everything Kentucky stands for -- fast horses and beautiful, fun people."

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