What to know about the 2020 Kentucky Derby

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The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. Every year, millions of fans tune into NBC to watch top race horses from around the globe compete in “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.” Click here to stream the 2020 Kentucky Derby live right now.

Even though the longstanding race was postponed from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition is still fierce, the stakes are as high as ever and the action will be just as intense.

The 146th Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, Sept. 5 starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC as well as NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Post time is set for approximately 7:01 p.m. ET.  NBC Sports will also air the Kentucky Oaks the day before on Friday, September 4 beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

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What is the Kentucky Derby? The Kentucky Derby is traditionally the first leg of the American Triple Crown of horse racing. It is historically run on the first Saturday in May, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Kentucky Derby was postponed from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5.

When and where is the 2020 Kentucky Derby? The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Post time is set for approximately 7:01 p.m. ET.

The Derby is run on the dirt track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, where it has been held since its inaugural running in 1875.

How can I watch the 2020 Kentucky Derby? NBC is home to the 146th Kentucky Derby, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app before, during and after. NBC will also broadcast the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, the 2020 Preakness Stakes and the 2020 Breeders’ Cup.

How are horses picked for the Derby? Only 3-year-old Thoroughbreds can qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Eligible horses compete in the Race to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races around the world. Horses win points for finishing in the top four spots, and the 20 horses with the most points at the end of the series gain entry into the Derby. (However, sometimes horses will scratch, giving another the opportunity to run in the Derby.)

New York-based Tiz the Law leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with a hulking 372 points, thanks mostly to his Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Florida Derby wins.

RELATED: How to watch the 2020 Kentucky Derby

Who are the horses to watch?

  • After dazzling and dominant trips in New York’s most high profile races, the Belmont Stakes and the Travers StakesBarclay Tagg’s Tiz the Law looks to continue his dominant 3-year-old season in the Kentucky Derby. He shares the same trainer (Tagg) and owners (Sackatoga Stable) as 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide. Tiz the Law opened as the heavy favorite, but his one and only career loss was at Churchill Downs last November.
  • Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. could make Mike Smith, 55, the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Though he was second in his last start (the Aug. 1 Shared Belief) behind fellow Derby contender Thousand Words, Smith said he thought the distance, 3/16th of a mile shorter than the Derby, was too short for him. He notes the horse’s intelligence, while trainer John Shirreffs is impressed by his stride and lightness, and Smith opted for Honor A.P. over another Derby probable, Authentic. Shirreffs and Smith were the winning combo in the 2005 Kentucky Derby with 50-1 longshot Giacomo.
  • Haskell winner Authentic is the first of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s two expected entries in the Derby. In five starts, the Into Mischief colt has four wins and one second, so he’s yet to finish out of the money. His one second place came on June 6 in the Santa Anita Derby, 2 3/4 lengths behind fellow Kentucky Derby contender Honor A.P. This will be Authentic’s first race with Hall of Fame jockey John Velzquez.
  • Bob Baffert’s late bloomer Thousand Words enters the Derby field with an Aug. 1 win in the Shared Belief Stakes, beating Honor A.P. He’s had a bumpy ride, opening his racing career with three-straight wins before losing three in a row and then finally impressing in the Shared Belief. If the Kentucky Derby had been run in May, the $1 million son of Pioneerof the Nile (sire to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) likely wouldn’t have been in the Derby picture, but the later race date gave him time to mature.

Who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby? In a historic race that rocked the sports world, Maximum Security was the first horse to cross the finish line in the 145th Kentucky Derby, but minutes later, an objection was called and the track stewards began closely examining the race.

They ruled that on the final turn, Maximum Security moved out of his lane and bumped his hind right leg into eventual 2020 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will, impeding the forward motion of him as well as several other horses.

Since this significantly impacted the overall outcome of the race, Maximum Security was disqualified and second place finisher Country House was elevated to first. For the first time ever, the horse that made it to the wire first was disqualified on-site.

How has COVID-19 affected the 2020 Kentucky Derby? Besides a new date, the 146th Kentucky Derby will run without fans in the stands.

The postponement was an attempt to wait out the pandemic and hopefully have spectators attend. Churchill Downs first issued strict COVID-19 guidelines with a limited fan capacity before announcing that the Derby and Oaks would run spectatorless. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear will also forego the tradition of meeting the winning connections after the race and will be watching from home instead.

Also because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its related safety precautions (riders must be at Churchill Downs by Aug. 31, the Monday of Derby week), several top riders including last year’s Derby winner Flavien Prat and wildly successful brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr. won’t be making the trip down to Kentucky. Instead, they’ll stay at their home tracks to keep riding.

Jockeys across the country have been wearing facemasks while racing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unrelated to the pandemic but still new this year is a custom, controversial 20-horse starting gate. Before the new addition, the Kentucky Derby used a more standard 14-horse gate attached to a six-horse auxiliary gate. Because of COVID-19, the gate’s arrival and assembly was delayed and it wasn’t tested out until Derby week.

What are the biggest Kentucky Derby traditions? The Mint Julep, made with Kentucky bourbon, is the signature drink of the Derby, and foods with a rich Kentucky history like bourbon balls and hot browns are a must for any watch party. Download the NBC Sports Kentucky Derby at Home Party Pack for recipes, cocktails, printable decorations, at-home fashion tips, kids crafts and more.

Additionally, Kentucky’s state song “My Old Kentucky Home” is played during the pre-race post parade. After the race, the champion horse is given the iconic garland of roses in the winner’s circle.

Betting and horse racing go hand in hand. There will be a whole weekend of stacked racing cards at Churchill Downs, but the Kentucky Derby takes the betting cake.

In a normal year where the Derby is packed with fans from around the country, bold and formal outfits for both men and women are a must. Celebrities and fans a like go all out, donning creative and colorful hats, bright colors and wild patterns. In fact, hats and outfits are such a big part of the Kentucky Derby that the Derby Museum has a whole exhibit for the most lavished fashions.

Watch the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Breeders’ Cup spots on the line this weekend, top trainers hold keys to 2-year-old tests

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Sometimes, in assessing stakes races, it is best to look at the history of the race and see if there is a dominant factor in that history. This weekend’s racing features both the Champagne Stakes and the Miss Grillo Stakes, two Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup (coverage begins Saturday at 4 pm ET on NBC). For both races, you need to look no further than the “winning trainer” column, which provides some unavoidable facts:

  1. Since 2004, Todd Pletcher has won the Champagne Stakes a record-setting six times.
  2. In recent times, Chad Brown has asserted himself in this race, winning 3 of the last 6 runnings.
  3. In the 14 runnings of the Miss Grillo since 2008, Chad Brown has been the winning trainer 8 times.

All observations and handicapping of these two races must begin with these facts. Is there something that makes horses from these barns better than others? Not necessarily. But history tells us that these two barns have high-quality and expensive horses and they tend to get them to peak at this time of year. You can try to beat them at the betting windows, but be aware of the history that you are running into.

Further research brought up some interesting notes about these two races and their Breeders’ Cup divisions.

First, a look at the 2-year-old colt division. Since 2004 (when Todd Pletcher won the first of his 6 Champagne Stakes), three 2-year-olds have won the Champagne, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the 2-year-old Eclipse Award. They were War Pass (2007), Uncle Mo (2010) and Shanghai Bobby (2012).  Pletcher trained Uncle Mo and Shanghai Bobby, and Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito handled War Pass.

RELATED: Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

Looking at the 2-year-old turf fillies, the dominance of Chad Brown is even more striking. Since 2008, when Chad Brown captured his first Miss Grillo and the first running of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, four 2-year-old fillies have captured the Miss Grillo and the Juvenile Fillies Turf. They were Maram (2008), Lady Eli (2014), New Money Honey (2016) and Newspaperofrecord (2018). All four fillies were trained by Chad Brown.

A review of charts from the Champagne back to 2004 (the year of Todd Pletcher’s first winner in the race) reveals that he had 20 starters, with 6 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third. That means he has won 30% of the time and been in the money 50%.

A review of the charts from the Miss Grillo dating back to 2008 (Chad Brown’s first winner in the race) shows that he has had 23 starters, with 8 wins, 1 second and 4 thirds. That means he has won approximately 35% of the time and been in the money 56%.

RELATED: Olympiad cruises to Jockey Club Gold Cup victory

Storylines to Watch for 2022 Champagne Stakes

So, what does this mean for this year’s editions of these two “Win and You’re In” races for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup?

In the Champagne, it seems that the dominant trainers in the sport are putting forth the major contenders.

  • 2021 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox is likely to start Verifying, who was a solid winner at Saratoga as a big favorite in his only career start.
  • The sport’s all-time winningest North American trainer is Steve Asmussen, who is rapidly closing in on 10,000 career wins. Asmussen, who won this race in 2020 with Jackie’s Warrior, will send out Gulfport, a very impressive son of Uncle Mo. Gulfport won his first two races by an average winning margin of almost 10 lengths. Then, he had some real misfortune in his next two starts, finishing 2nd in both races at Saratoga. In the Saratoga Special, he had major traffic problems that led to losing several lengths at the top of the stretch. As the favorite in the Hopeful, he endured a wide trip on a sloppy surface to be 2nd best again. With a clean trip, he will be a major contender in the Champagne.
  • As previously stated, Chad Brown has won the Champagne in 3 of its last 6 runnings. He is likely to enter Blazing Sevens, who is a son of Good Magic, the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner. After a big win in the first race of his career at Saratoga, Blazing Sevens endured a wide trip on a sloppy track in the Hopeful Stakes, and he should improve here, especially on a fast track.
  • The horse who beat Gulfport in the Hopeful was Forte, trained by the 6-time winner of this race, Todd Pletcher. The stretchout to a one-turn mile in the Champagne would have seemed to be made to order for his closing kick. At entry time, Pletcher chose to not enter Forte in the Champagne Stakes, in all likelihood because he plans to enter the horse in the Breeders’ Futurity next Saturday at Keeneland. The Breeders’ Futurity is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and can be seen on CNBC.

RELATED: Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

Storylines to Watch for 2022 Miss Grillo Stakes

Moving on to the Miss Grillo, Chad Brown is likely to enter Free Look, who was an impressive late-closing winner of a Maiden race in her second career start. In her first start, she was a victim of a slow pace, and the best she could do from the back of the pack was close to be 3rd. She seems to be a horse who is likely to improve with more racing. Free Look is a daughter of the leading sire Tapit.

Two others to watch in the Miss Grillo are Be Your Best and Pleasant Passage. Be Your Best is undefeated in two starts for trainer Horacio DePaz. Her last start was the P.G. Johnson Stakes, and she displayed the stalking style that has led to wins in both of her starts. Another with a license to improve is Pleasant Passage, from the barn of legendary trainer Shug McGaughey. In her only career start, she rallied up the rail and endured a stretch battle to get up for a narrow win. She has outstanding grass breeding, and the experience of that win should work in her favor in this race.

It is hard to predict outcomes with lightly-raced 2-year-olds. What we do know is that two horses will win their way into two Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday. That’s the great thing about these “Win and You’re In” races… they are running for something other than purse money, and it often produces some outstanding outcomes.

Lookahead to 2022 Breeders’ Cup

These races lead up to two of the 14 championship races on November 4th and 5th. For those who have never watched an entire Breeders’ Cup, get ready for the rush of witnessing a world championship event every 35 minutes or so. It’s like the Olympics of our sport. Be ready to watch and wager, and you’re sure to come away with some great memories. If you pick some winners, you might come away with a nice profit, as well. The Breeders’ Cup…there’s nothing like it!

Pegasus on Jan. 28, Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Gulfstream Park announced the schedule for the 2022-23 Championship Meet, highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28.

Also on Pegasus day: The $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, as well as the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Gulfstream’s top Kentucky Derby prep race, the $1 million Florida Derby, will be run on April 1 as part of a card with 10 stakes races. Other top 3-year-old preps at Gulfstream in early 2023 include the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, the $250,000 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on March 4.

The Pegasus is returning for a seventh time. The format has changed several times in the race’s infancy; the purse structure for the Pegasus World Cup no longer requires owners to put up $1 million apiece for a spot in the starting gate for what was, at its inception, the world’s richest race with a purse that reached $16 million.

This much has remained constant: Winning the Pegasus changes a horse’s resume. No Pegasus winner has ever finished worse than sixth in the yearlong earnings among North American horses, and two past winners – Arrogate and Gun Runner – are two of the three highest-earning thoroughbreds in U.S. history.

Gulfstream’s Championship Meet runs from Dec. 26 through April 2, featuring 60 stakes races, 35 of them graded, and worth a combined $13.6 million.