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My concerns about 20 horses are that Churchill is the wrong venue to race a field of that size; that the race requires two starting gates; and that the race was plenty damn exciting, and offered decent payouts, when it was a 14 horse field. I can’t see a positive reason, other than the greed of Churchill Downs, to have that many runners going in the Derby.
And while I’m on my mini soap box, I’d also remove the inclusion of a horse from Japan, as well as the winner of the Dubai race from the automatic entrants. Put more focus on horses who run the major US preps. If the Dubai and Japan winners are hell bent to race in the States, there’s always the Breeders Cup ....
and that the race was plenty damn exciting, and offered decent payouts, when it was a 14 horse field.
When was it ever a 14-horse field? I can't find the number of entrants per year, but the initial Derby in 1875 had 15 horses. In 1974, it had a record 23 entrants, after which the limit was set at 20.
According to an article I read, the average field size in the history of the Derby is 13.2 horses, but the average field size since the turn of the century is 19.1, with no field smaller than 16. Clearly there were many fields 14 or less, prior to the last two decades.
Since 1981, there have been only three fields under 14 entries: 13 in 1997, 1985 and in 1980. The average field size 1981-1999 was 17.37.
The 1994 Derby (won by GoForGin) had 14 runners
I found this link. I am mistaken - I thought the Derby had a smaller field not too long ago. I guess I was thinking about betting interests. It used to be that horses owned by the same barn would go as an entry, and there was always a “field” entry consisting of several horses...
It's been a high number of entrants ever since 1980. In the 21st century, 19.05 average. 1981-1999, 17.37 average. 1970-80, 14.73. 1950-69, 13.55.
Here are the tabulations I made:
2019-2000: no years under 16 entries
Dubai and Japan Horses are here to stay.CDI wants the revenue generated by the Japanese pools.
I found this link. I am mistaken - I thought the Derby had a smaller field not too long ago. I guess I was thinking about betting interests. It used to be that horses owned by the same barn would go as an entry, and there was always a “field” entry consisting of several horses... https://www.kentuckyderby.com/uploads/wysiwyg/assets/uploads/Field_Size__2017_.pdf
Nice find, Gin!