The Kentucky Derby contenders list is comprised of the 20 horses that qualify for the race. Churchill Downs determines the 20 horses based on a point system in 36 races.
Horses earn points for finishing first, second, third or fourth based on the level of competition. The Kentucky Derby prep season runs from September until February. The first finisher in each race gets 10 points.
The Kentucky Derby championship season runs for about 10 weeks from the end of February through Derby Day. The first finisher in each race gets 50 points.
The championship season is followed up by a series of the most prestigious and difficult races where the first finishers earn 100 points. There are a couple of last opportunity wild-card races where the first finishers get 20 points. The 20 horses with the highest point total get to run in the Kentucky Derby.