The first Saturday in May sure wasn’t the one to which horse racing fans have become accustomed. It was Kentucky Derby Day without the actual Run for the Roses.
Most people are understanding of the coronavirus pandemic, having seen its path of destruction around the world and through many parts of the United States. Most tracks haven’t raced since mid-March, and those still running are doing so without fans. So, when Churchill Downs announced that the official Kentucky Derby would be rescheduled for September 5, 2020, most racing fans understood.
That didn’t make it any easier, though, when the first Saturday in May came and went.
It’s not that Churchill Downs do anything. In fact, they had a day filled with online activities and then a virtual race of Triple Crown champions on NBC. Many fans participated and watched throughout the day. It wasn’t the same as actual Derby Day, but everyone made the most of it.
In four months, horse racing fans will experience the most anticipated Kentucky Derby in recent history.
Triple Crown Showdown
Churchill Downs worked with Inspired Entertainment to create a race for the ages to air at the time of the formerly-scheduled Kentucky Derby. The Triple Crown Showdown was a simulated horse race that pitted all past 13 Triple Crown winners against each other.
Betting was encouraged, though the only currency available was a donation to COVID-19 relief efforts. Many people placed bets, many donated to help a good cause, and one person will win a Kentucky Derby Ultimate Experience prize package.
The winner has yet to be announced, and the final tally of donations is pending. Churchill Downs will be matching up to $1 million in donations, so the ultimate amount will likely be impressive.
Meanwhile, the virtual race played out on NBC on Saturday, May 2.
The simulation was amazingly realistic, from the moment the horses bolted out of the gate all the way to the finish line. The technology made the horses look extraordinarily realistic, even down to their muscles pulsing as they pushed themselves toward the finish line.
Triple Crown Showdown Results
Secretariat was the favorite going in to the race with 7-2 odds, with Citation put at 4-1 and Affirmed and Seattle Slew both at 5-1.
Seattle Slew took the early lead and set the pace in the race, with Justify the slowest out of the gate. Meanwhile, Count Fleet was closing in on Seattle Slew with Omaha in a close third. Secretariat was fifth behind Whirlaway as they headed to the backstretch. At the ¾-mile mark, Secretariat moved into third but then back to fifth as American Pharoah made progress. Count Fleet moved into the lead momentarily, but Seattle Slew took it back. Secretariat made a run for it in the last 16th, as Citation did on the inside. But Secretariat burst toward the finish line and claimed victory.
The final finishing positions (with Triple Crown winning year) were:
- Secretariat (1973)
- Citation (1948)
- Seattle Slew (1977)
- Affirmed (1978)
- American Pharoah (2015)
- Whirlaway (1941)
- Count Fleet (1943)
- Justify (2018)
- Assault (1946)
- War Admiral (1937)
- Omaha (1935)
- Gallant Fox (1930)
- Sir Barton (1919)
Preparing for 2020 Spring Meet
Just last week, Churchill Downs Racetrack announced that its 2020 Spring Meet will open on Saturday, May 16. After the initial opening weekend, the track will host races Thursdays through Sundays and with a special feature on Memorial Day. Officials will release the full schedules soon.
The process to reopen finally got underway with approval from the Commonwealth of Kentucky last week to reopen stable areas.
The phased opening of the track will begin with no spectators allowed at the beginning of the 2020 Spring Meet, but future changes will be determined by government and health officials. The only people authorized to be at Churchill Downs on May 16-17 are racetrack employees, stable assistants, and KHRC license holders with a horse stabled there.