Having been hit with notable late scratches to the first leg of the Triple Crown in recent years, Churchill Downs announced Friday it will permit as many as four also-eligible entrants to the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, beginning in 2012.
A maximum of 20 horses is allowed to compete in the Kentucky Derby while the Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters.
This year saw reigning juvenile champion Uncle Mo scratched the day before the Kentucky Derby because of what was later diagnosed as a rare liver ailment.
Sway Away, second in the Grade II Best Pal and San Vicente Stakes, would have been the first horse in under the new rules although eventual Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice was also among the horses left out of this year's oversubscribed race.
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Entries for the Kentucky Oaks are due the Tuesday before the race, and Kentucky Derby entries are taken the next day.
Also-eligible horses would be permitted to compete in the Kentucky Derby or the Kentucky Oaks if there are scratches from either race prior to their shared official "scratch time" of 9 a.m. Friday, which is Kentucky Oaks Day. That time is the opening of wagering on the Kentucky Oaks Day racing program and the beginning of preliminary betting on the Kentucky Derby.
In the event of a scratch or scratches from either race, preference among also-eligible entrants would be determined under the current eligibility system for the Derby and Oaks. Horses with the highest total earnings in graded stakes races would "draw-in" to the field for their respective race.
"Also-eligible horses for Oaks will have nearly three days of opportunity to get into their race, while the Derby's window for also-eligible entrants to participate is just under 48 hours," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. "We feel strongly that the deadline for also-eligible horses to join the Derby field must be set before preliminary wagering on the race begins."
In the event of a scratch from either race, horses in post positions outside of the scratched horses would move in a spot and the also-eligible horse would then occupy the outermost position in the starting gate.
Dominguez sets N.Y. record
Ramon Dominguez's victory in the fourth race at Aqueduct on Thursday, his seventh straight in races in which he rode, set a record for consecutive wins by a jockey on The New York Racing Association circuit.
Dominguez, the reigning Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top jockey, went 4-for-4 on Wednesday in races 5 through 8, and won races 1, 2 and 4 on Thursday. Dominguez also won the sixth on Thursday for his second straight four-win day before finishing off the board in races 7 and 8.
Dominguez had ridden six consecutive winners on Feb. 7 and 8, 2009, sharing the previous NYRA record with Corey Nakatani, Stewart Elliott, Jerry Bailey, Jeff Fell, Steve Cauthen and Jorge Velasquez, who is the only jockey to have gone 6-for-6 on a single day at an NYRA racetrack.
■ Red's Round Table, the 4-5 favorite, rolled to a 61/2-length win over Nicole's Miss El on Friday in the $58,800 Tate Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.