LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Derby, the oldest constantly held sporting occasion in the United States, returns to the first Saturday in May after being run final 12 months in September with out followers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coverage begins on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time on NBC Sports Network and can proceed on NBC at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. Post time is 6:57 p.m.
Here’s what else you want to find out about the 147th working of the race:
Fans return, however attendance is restricted.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on the Triple Crown schedule in 2020. The Belmont Stakes, usually the remaining leg of the Triple Crown, was held in June, the Derby in September and the Preakness, often the second of the three races, got here final, with a brand new date in October. All return to their common spots on the calendar this 12 months and can enable a restricted variety of followers.
The Derby recurrently brings a crowd of greater than 150,000 to Churchill Downs. Organizers, whereas declining to give a set restrict, mentioned reserved seating, which usually accounts for about 60,000 individuals, can be restricted to between 40 p.c and 60 p.c, relying on the seating space. An infield-only normal admission ticket has lately been added and can be saved to about 25 p.c to 30 p.c capability, they mentioned. That would put the crowd at round 50,000.
Fans can be given temperature checks at the gates, and so they’ll be required to put on masks when not consuming and ingesting. All reserved seats embody limitless meals and drinks this 12 months, a transfer to cut back traces and the change of cash. Organizers are additionally selling the use of cell apps to place bets, though betting home windows can be open.
An undefeated favourite tops the 19-horse area.
Essential Quality, the 2-year-old champion who’s undefeated in 5 begins, is the 2-1 morning-line favourite in what seems to be a considerably evenly matched 19-horse Derby area. (King Fury scratched on Friday with a fever.)
After profitable the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November, he gained the Southwest Stakes on a sloppy monitor at Oaklawn Park in February and the Blue Grass Stakes by a neck over the Derby contender Highly Motivated in April.
With a victory, he would turn out to be the ninth undefeated horse to win the Derby (the final was Justify in 2018) and simply the third Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner (becoming a member of Street Sense and Nyquist). A son of the main sire Tapit, Essential Quality has a pedigree suited to the Derby’s mile-and-a-quarter distance, and he has proven versatility by profitable on three tracks and beneath totally different tempo eventualities.
Brad Cox, who will even saddle the 15-1 shot Mandaloun, is in search of to turn out to be the first coach born in Louisville to win the race. A Derby victory on his first attempt would cap Cox’s speedy rise to the prime of the sport: The 41-year-old gained the Eclipse Award for excellent coach final 12 months after saddling 4 Breeders’ Cup winners and profitable 30 graded stakes races.
“We’ve been very fortunate to win two Kentucky Oaks, seven Breeders’ Cup races and an Eclipse Award, and those are things that I’ll never forget and am very proud of,” Cox mentioned. “But the Kentucky Derby is No. 1, and it would mean a lot.”
Essential Quality is owned by the controversial ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, whose highly successful Godolphin racing empire is seeking its first Derby victory after 11 previous tries. Godolphin’s best finish was in 2015, when Frosted finished fourth.
Essential Quality will be ridden by Luis Saez, who is 0 for 7 in the Derby, though he experienced the thrill of winning for a brief period in 2019 before his mount Maximum Security was disqualified for interference.
No Lasix in first step toward ban of race-day medication.
Reduced capacity isn’t all that’s different at the Derby: This year there will be no “L” in the program next to the runners’ names to denote the race-day use of the drug Lasix.
All of the Derby entrants will race without the drug for the first time in nearly 50 years as part of the sport’s attempt to move toward the elimination of race-day medication. And whoever crosses the finish line first will become the first to do so without Lasix since Grindstone in 1996.
Lasix, or furosemide, is used to prevent bleeding in the lungs during exercise, but it is also a diuretic that critics say has performance-enhancing effects that may potentially allow a horse to run faster. Lasix, which can also be used by humans to mask the use of performance-enhancing drugs, is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.
The use of Lasix in thoroughbreds has been common in North America since the mid-1970s, but it is widely prohibited in racing throughout the world.
Last year, the owners of the tracks that host the three Triple Crown races — Churchill Downs, the Stronach Group and the New York Racing Association — agreed to phase out race-day Lasix, starting with 2-year-olds, and the Breeders’ Cup has also put in place a ban on the drug. Lasix is still permitted for race-day use on horses in sport’s lower levels.
Other horses and people to watch.
Todd Pletcher has four entrants in the Derby: the Florida Derby winner Known Agenda (6-1 in the morning line), the Wood Memorial runner-up Dynamic One (20-1), the Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic (30-1) and the Jeff Ruby Steaks runner-up Sainthood (50-1). This is the sixth time the 53-year-old Pletcher has had four or more Derby starters in a given year. He saddled his first Derby horse in 2000 and comes into this year with a record 55 Derby starters. He won the Derby in 2010 with Super Saver and in 2017 with Always Dreaming.
Bob Baffert, who won the 2020 Derby with Authentic, enters the race tied with Ben Jones for the most Derby wins by a trainer with six. Baffert will try to make the record all his own when he sends out Medina Spirit (15-1), who will have the same jockey as Authentic, John Velazquez. (Jones won six times between 1938 and 1952.)
Kendrick Carmouche, who will be aboard Bourbonic, will try to become the first Black jockey in 119 years to win the Kentucky Derby. Carmouche knows the history of African-Americans in America’s most famous race: Oliver Lewis won the first Derby in 1875, and 15 of the first 28 editions of the race were won by Black jockeys, most recently Jimmy Winkfield in 1902. “Me being here means something to a lot of people,” he said. “We helped found this sport, and I have an opportunity to remind people of that.”
Besides the trainers and jockeys, there are always a few horses with fun names that capture the attention of bettors and casual fans alike. The catchiest name this year belongs to Soup and Sandwich, who is owned by Charlotte C. Weber, the granddaughter of the Campbell Soup Company founder. Other attention-getters include two horses with bourbon influences, Midnight Bourbon and Bourbonic (20-1); O Besos, who pulls the O from his sire, Orb, and the Besos, which is kisses in Spanish, from his dam, Snuggs and Kisses; the New York-bred Brooklyn Strong; and the generally memorable Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World.