Virtual Kentucky Derby Day Set for May 2 on NBC and Online

Posted By Jennifer Newell on May 1, 2020

The official Kentucky Derby, as fans around the world know it, is rescheduled for September 5, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic required the postponement of one of the biggest days in all of sports. But if the stars – and social distancing rules and antibody tests and vaccines – align, the 146th Kentucky Presented by Woodford Reserve will run on September 5 at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Kentucky.

With that in mind and much of America – and the world – remaining under stay-at-home orders beyond May 2, Churchill Downs prepared something special.

The first-ever virtual Kentucky Derby will offer numerous online activities and tours throughout May 2. And NBC will go ahead with a three-hour broadcast around the Derby. Much of the television coverage will revolve around the unique situation of COVID-19 this year and the long history of racing and the Derby itself.

The grand finale will be the Triple Crown Showdown, a virtual race featuring all past Triple Crown winners. And it will benefit a very worthwhile and timely charity.

All-Day Online Festivities Beginning at 9am

The schedule of events includes something for fans of all ages. It begins at 9am ET and runs through the day as follows:

  • 9am ET: Virtual tour of Churchill Downs (Live on KY Derby social media)
  • 10am ET: Virtual tour of Claiborne Farm (KY Derby social media)
  • 12noon ET: KY Derby Museum film “The Greatest Race” (KY Derby social media)
  • 12:15pm ET: KY Derby Museum crafts for kids (KY Derby social media)
  • 12:45pm ET: Triple Crown Showdown handicapper roundtable (KY Derby social media)
  • 1pm ET: DIY fascinator-making tutorial (KY Derby social media)
  • 2pm ET: Horse stories and cocktail crafting lessons (KY Derby social media)
  • 3pm ET: NBC broadcast “The First Saturday in May” (NBC)
  • 5pm ET: Virtual toast (KY Derby social media)
  • 5:15pm ET: My Old Kentucky Home song (KY Derby social media)
  • 5:45pm ET: Triple Crown Showdown (NBC)

Special kids’ activities are shown on this Kentucky Derby page, complete with tutorials. Other craft projects include some do-it-yourself activities (fancy a paper-flower fascinator?) and cocktails and recipes for the celebratory day.

The Kentucky Derby’s social media pages include its Twitter feed @KentuckyDerby, Instagram page, and Facebook page.

Main Event: Triple Crown Showdown

The featured part of the NBC broadcast will be the simulated Triple Crown Showdown to replace the Kentucky Derby.

Inspired Entertainment worked to create the simulated horse race set in front of the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. They used algorithms that included the historical handicapping information and other stats to set them up in this 1 ¼-mile virtual race. And in the end, a “fundamental probabilities” algorithm will choose the winner, which does include some random number generation.

The public is invited to bet on a winner via a donation to support COVID-19 relief. Anyone is welcome to free bet without making a donation, but those who do choose to bet will be making a donation to emergency relief efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic. And Churchill Downs will match up to $1 million in donations.

The majority of the money will go to the Team Kentucky Fund and Direct Relief, with a small portion earmarked for the R.E.I.N (Relief for Equine Industry Needs) Fund, which is managed by the Churchill Downs Foundation to benefit workers on the backside. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear established the Team Kentucky Fund to help all Kentuckians severely impacted by the public health emergency. And Direct Relief has a specific COVID-19 Fund for Community Health to support healthcare workers’ safety and essential services.

The lineup, including the year they won their Triple Crown and the current odds, is as follows:

  • Affirmed (1978) 5-1
  • Assault (1946) 20-1
  • Secretariat (1973) 7-2
  • Sir Barton (1919) 20-1
  • Seattle Slew (1977) 5-1
  • American Pharoah (2015) 6-1
  • Gallant Fox (1930) 20-1
  • Citation (1948) 4-1
  • War Admiral (1937) 8-1
  • Whirlaway (1941) 6-1
  • Count Fleet (1943) 6-1
  • Justify (2018) 15-1
  • Omaha (1935) 20-1

The favorite thus far is Secretariat at 7-2, arguably the most well-known of the runners. Veteran odds maker Mike Battaglia gave Secretariat the edge but also admitted, “I didn’t have the heart to hang more than 20-1 odds on a Triple Crown winner!”

It should be noted that the horses received their numbers in a random draw.

Everyone who picks a winner on the Kentucky Derby website will also be entered to win a Kentucky Derby Ultimate Experience prize package. This will offer a four-day, three-night trip for the winner and a guest to see the 2020 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby in September, stay at the Galt House Hotel, and enjoy all of the surrounding festivities, including the official Winner’s Party.


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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell is a freelance writer living in her hometown of St. Louis after stints in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She has written about poker for more than 15 years but added other forms of gambling and horse racing to her repertoire in the last few years. She grew up with a love for horse racing from her now-late father, who loved to play the ponies. Jennifer can be found on Twitter at @writerjen.

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