Churchill Downs announced on March 17th that the Kentucky Derby will be postponed until Saturday, September 5th.
This news is certainly a bit disappointing for those who have been looking forward to the race, especially since it was drawing so near. However, putting such a large group of people so close together amid concerns over the coronavirus could be disastrous. Churchill Downs did what they felt would be in the best interest of the people who have waited a whole year, or even their whole life, to see the race.
Though the race is now on the First Saturday in September rather than the First Saturday in May, there are some ways that you can look on the bright side of this situation. First, the horses that will be running in the race will have much more time to grow and mature.
We all know that many horses simply get better with age. There have been countless examples of horses who didn’t win the Kentucky Derby but improved drastically afterwards to win some of the top races in the nation. We saw it in horses like the late Battle of Midway, who finished third in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Frosted finished fourth in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and won the Met Mile (G1) and Whitney Stakes (G1) the following summer. Code of Honor finished second (after DQ) in the 2019 Kentucky Derby before winning the Travers Stakes (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).
There have been so many similar cases that it’s hard to count. That doesn’t even include the number of horses that narrowly missed making it into the starting gates on the First Saturday in May because of the points system that went on to run well later in the year.
The September date for the Kentucky Derby gives these young horses more time to train, grow, and prepare for what will be the biggest test of their lives. It could allow fans to see a truer picture of these horse’s potential.
In addition to the September date giving the horses more time to prepare, it gives the race a novelty aspect. The Kentucky Derby is firmly planted in it’s traditions; roses, mint juleps, big hats, and “My Old Kentucky Home”. These traditions will, of course, still be part of the new Derby’s date. However, the new date adds a bit of novelty to the race.
This will be the first time the Kentucky Derby hasn’t been run on the First Saturday in May since 1945, when the race had to be postponed until June 9th because of World War II. This makes the 2020 Kentucky Derby unique and unusual. Few, if any of us, have experienced something like this in our lifetime. This gives the media something to write about and the fans something to talk about. While things seem stressful right now, it will be interesting to look back upon this time in horse racing. A time when for three consecutive years we had some very interesting Kentucky Derbys - one being the start of Justify’s Triple Crown sweep, one ending in a disqualification, and one being postponed until four months later.
Yes, there are downfalls to the Kentucky Derby being postponed. But rest assured that everything will figure itself out. Times are a bit scary right now. People are losing their jobs and businesses that mostly depended on in-person contact are going to be struggling to stay afloat. Please do the best you can to support your community and keep one another safe.
The Kentucky Derby will still go on. We will still see who the best three-year old of the crop is. There are still many months for the excitement to build and for new horses to emerge onto the scene. September 5th will surely be a day of celebration for the sport of horse racing and for the world as a whole. There is positive in all of this negative if you know how to look for it.
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