Normally by this time of the week leading up to the first Saturday in May, I would be knee deep in past performances gearing up for another running of the Kentucky Derby.
But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Derby was moved to September 5 – Labor Day weekend. The change has certainly changed the anticipation of this week. For the horse player it is like the regular people seeing Christmas moved from December 25 to March 25.
It is just not the same.
But the powers that be at NBC have teamed with Churchill Downs to announce an alternative – the Virtual Kentucky Derby. The virtual race, created by Inspired Entertainment, will feature the 13 past Triple Crown winners and use data algorithms including historical handicapping information about each horse, which helps to determine the probability of their potential finishing positions.
Fans can tune in to a special broadcast on NBC on May 2, from 12 to 3 p.m. PST, which will feature the 2015 Kentucky Derby that began the legendary American Pharoah’s historic Triple Crown run.
Following the virtual race will be the televised coverage of the two divisions of the Arkansas Derby. The race at Oaklawn Park was moved to May 2 when the Kentucky Derby was moved to Labor Day weekend.
There is also a full day of online festivities is planned on May 2, designed to encourage the perfect interactive Kentucky Derby party at home. Churchill Downs will join the Kentucky Derby Museum and other partners to offer virtual tours, Derby cocktail and fascinator-making instructions, ideas for party decorations, kids’ crafts, Derby-inspired recipes, an at-home Derby fashion contest and much more.
The 13 runners that have won the Triple Crown along with the year they won are: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).
The post positions and the odds are as follows: 1, Affirmed (5-1)l 2, Assault (20-1); 3, Secretariat (7-2); 4, Sir Barton (20-1); 5, Seattle Slew (5-1); 6, American Pharoah (6-1); 7, Gallant Fox (20-1); 8, Citation (4-1); 9, War Admiral (8-1); 10, Whirlaway (6-1); 11, Count Fleet (6-1); 12, Justify (15-1); 13, Omaha (20-1).
It is going to be interesting to see how they can make a case for Secretariat not winning the race. The super horse still has the fastest time in Derby history, covering the 1.25-mile course in 1:59 2/5
Widely regarded as arguably the greatest horse of all time, it would be tough to imagine Secretariat losing, but the mere fact he is running against all the other Triple Crown winners does make for an intriguing, entertaining, event.
I am looking forward to it and will be sure to write a follow up story!
By Dennis Miller