Pages

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Back at the races: Kentucky Derby weekend begins at Churchill Downs with up to 45,000 VERY colorful fans expected tomorrow after COVID emptied stands in 2020

 The Kentucky Derby and the first Saturday in May are back together again.

The first jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown will be held Saturday before an expected crowd of around 45,000 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

The race was run last year without paying spectators and after being delayed until Labor Day weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Essential Quality, trained by Brad Cox, was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-olds. Post time is 6:57pm ET.

What pandemic? Maskless attendees of The Kentucky Oaks attend the horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday - the day before the highly anticipated Kentucky Derby

What pandemic? Maskless attendees of The Kentucky Oaks attend the horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday - the day before the highly anticipated Kentucky Derby

Horse race fans don some creative headwear as they flock to Churchill Downs in Louisville on Friday
Horse race fans don some creative headwear as they flock to Churchill Downs in Louisville on Friday

Horse race fans don some creative headwear as they flock to Churchill Downs in Louisville on Friday

This attendee wore a mask at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday. Some 45,000 fans are expected to attend the Kentucky Derby on Saturday

This attendee wore a mask at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday. Some 45,000 fans are expected to attend the Kentucky Derby on Saturday

Rules still require face masks, but some attendees decided not to wear them at Churchill Downs on Friday

Rules still require face masks, but some attendees decided not to wear them at Churchill Downs on Friday

Crowds cheer as jockey John Velazquez (left), who is riding Malathaat, wins the 147th Kentucky Oaks, a day before the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Oaks, which is held on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby every year, is a race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies

Crowds cheer as jockey John Velazquez (left), who is riding Malathaat, wins the 147th Kentucky Oaks, a day before the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Oaks, which is held on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby every year, is a race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies

A son of Tapit, Essential Quality made it 5-for-5 in his career when he won the Blue Grass Stakes by a neck on April 3.

'It seems like his game face is on,' Cox said this week. 'I think the one nice thing about Essential Quality is he can adjust (to any pace).'


Luis Saez will ride Essential Quality, who will break from the No. 14 post position. Cox also will send 15-1 Mandaloun to the No. 7 post under jockey Florent Geroux.

Cox, in his first Derby, will try to become the first Louisville native to win the 147th Run for the Roses.

Velazquez was the jockey who rode Authentic (left) to victory at last year's Kentucky Derby, which was held in front of a handful of people

Velazquez was the jockey who rode Authentic (left) to victory at last year's Kentucky Derby, which was held in front of a handful of people

Velazquez, seen above aboard Malathaat (left), is congratulated by Irad Ortiz Jr. after Velazquez won the 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks horse race

Velazquez, seen above aboard Malathaat (left), is congratulated by Irad Ortiz Jr. after Velazquez won the 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks horse race 

Attendees at The Kentucky Oaks wear masks and interesting hats at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday

Attendees at The Kentucky Oaks wear masks and interesting hats at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday

After being disrupted by a pandemic, the Kentucky Derby is back with many of its traditions intact

After being disrupted by a pandemic, the Kentucky Derby is back with many of its traditions intact

While 45,000 spectators are expected at Saturday's Derby, that's still 100,000 fewer compared to pre-pandemic times

While 45,000 spectators are expected at Saturday's Derby, that's still 100,000 fewer compared to pre-pandemic times

One woman wears a colorful hat as she attends the Kentucky Oaks race at Churchill Downs on Friday

One woman wears a colorful hat as she attends the Kentucky Oaks race at Churchill Downs on Friday

Masks are required - as this attendee knows. Food and drinks are all-inclusive to lessen long lines

Masks are required - as this attendee knows. Food and drinks are all-inclusive to lessen long lines

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen also will be seeking his first Derby victory when he saddles 20-1 Midnight Bourbon (jockey Mike Smith, No. 10 post position) and 30-1 Super Stock, who won the April 10 Arkansas Derby.

Asmussen's parents are part owners of Super Stock, who will start in the No. 18 post position.

'The key to Midnight Bourbon having success is for him to be away cleanly, get into a high rhythm,' Asmussen said. 

'Super Stock is extremely versatile. He'll go wherever (jockey) Ricardo (Santana Jr.) wants him to.'

Trainers Todd Pletcher and Doug O'Neill, both nominated for the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame this year, each will be aiming for a third Kentucky Derby win.

Pletcher will enter four starters - 6-1 Known Agenda (jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.), 20-1 Dynamic One (Jose Ortiz), 30-1 Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche) and 50-1 Sainthood (Corey Lanerie). 

Pletcher previously won with Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017.

Known Agenda, winner of the Florida Derby on March 27, drew the No. 1 post position. The last Kentucky Derby winner who started on the rail was Ferdinand in 1986.

'It certainly wasn't the one we were hoping for,' Pletcher said. 'But I've often said sometimes you get bad trips from good posts, and good trips from bad posts.'

Bourbonic, who will start on the far outside, and Dynamic One, post position No. 11, finished Nos. 1-2 in a relatively slow Wood Memorial on April 3.

Images taken from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday show several people who did not wear masks

Images taken from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday show several people who did not wear masks

One woman is ready for the horse race as she wears a hat decorated like a race track with horse figures

One woman is ready for the horse race as she wears a hat decorated like a race track with horse figures

The Kentucky Oaks and The Kentucky Derby are events that bring out the pageantry among spectators

The Kentucky Oaks and The Kentucky Derby are events that bring out the pageantry among spectators

Pretty in pink: Horse race fans pose for the cameras as they sport fancy clothing at Churchill Downs on Friday

Pretty in pink: Horse race fans pose for the cameras as they sport fancy clothing at Churchill Downs on Friday

This horse race fan is eager to show off her fashion sense at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday

This horse race fan is eager to show off her fashion sense at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday

A race fan poses for the camera at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday

A race fan poses for the camera at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday

Say cheese! A group of fans pose as they have their picture taken on Friday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

Say cheese! A group of fans pose as they have their picture taken on Friday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

O'Neill, who won the Derby with I'll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016, will start 8-1 Hot Rod Charlie under rider Flavien Prat.

Hot Rod Charlie, who captured the Louisiana Derby on March 20, will be starting from the No. 9 post position.

'Win, lose or draw, we're bringing great energy to Charlie and he's giving it back to us,' O'Neill said. 'It's a great post, right in the middle of the pack.'

Rock Your World, the second choice at 5-1 under Joel Rosario, will start in the No. 15 post position for trainer John Sadler. The colt, who did not race as a 2-year-old, won the April 3 Santa Anita Derby by 4 1/4 lengths over heavy favorite Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert.

Baffert, who won his sixth Kentucky Derby last year with Authentic, will start 15-1 Medina Spirit from the No. 8 post position with John Velazquez aboard.

Trainer Mark Casse, inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, seeks his first Derby triumph. He will start 30-1 Soup and Sandwich, in post position No. 19 with jockey Tyler Gaffalione, and 50-1 Helium from post position No. 12 ridden by Julien Leparoux.

With the sport trying to move away from race-day medication, this year's Kentucky Derby will be run for the first time without horses using the anti-bleeding drug Lasix.

Churchill Downs used a new 20-horse starting gate last year, when only 15 horses ran. The new gate replaced the standard 14-stall gate and six-slot auxiliary gate.

No comments:

Post a comment