How to Watch the Kentucky Derby as COVID-19 Pandemic Changes 146-Year-Old Tradition

Coverage of the race is scheduled to kick off this Saturday, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET

Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty

Saturday marks the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby, and after a year of unprecedented circumstances, it's sure to be one to remember.

The iconic sporting event, which usually takes place on the first Saturday in May, was postponed back in March due to the coronavirus pandemic — marking the first time in 75 years that the race had to be moved to a later date.

With the event now scheduled for Sept. 5, things will look a little different this year as Churchill Downs Racetrack officials in Louisville limit the number of people in attendance and enforce "strict guidelines" for safety.

Though there may a smaller number of spectators, it's not likely that the pandemic guidelines will put a stop to the legendary style aspect of the race. Not only will fans be donning their most colorful outfits and hats, but this year, they'll also be rocking their face masks.

For those who decide to watch the "greatest two minutes in sports" from the comfort of their own home, here's how to tune in — and everything else you'll want to keep an eye out for.

Kentucky Derby.

When and where is the Kentucky Derby?

NBC will broadcast the Kentucky Derby live from Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, Sept. 5 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT), with the actual running of the horses scheduled for 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT).

Some cities will be hosting outdoor watch parties at their local sports bars or restaurants, while virtual watch parties will also be available for those choosing to stay home.

If you don’t have access to a television — or a local sports bar — and you have a cable subscription login, you can catch the race on your laptop at the NBC Sports website, or on your mobile device using the NBC Sports app.

Who's Involved in the Kentucky Derby?

In total, 18 horses will compete on Derby Day for the $2 million grand prize. Tiz the Law is currently favored to win, according to experts in CBS Sports, The Washington Post and Kentucky Derby stories.

With the potential victory, Tiz the Law's trainer Barclay Tagg would officially become the winner of all three American Classics (he won the 2020 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes earlier this year) and one of just 13 Triple Crown winners in history, CBS Sports reported.

Other standouts include Authentic, who won the Haskell Invitational, Honor A.P., who won the Santa Anita Derby, and Money Moves, who won the Southland Matinee, according to the Kentucky Derby website.

RELATED VIDEO: Cost of Attending the Kentucky Derby

What to Expect

The experience will be a little different for in-person spectators as compared to years past due to the coronavirus. A reduced crowd size, reduced fan access to facilities and new safety measures will be taken.

As part of the updated fan code of conduct, officials said "guests will be consistently and frequently encouraged to wear a mask at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue. This includes when: riding on a shuttle, traveling through the venue, going to the restroom, placing an in-person wager and purchasing food or beverages from a concession stand."

Spectators will also be "asked to wash their hands for 20 seconds or sanitize them frequently" while at the event and are encouraged to socially distance themselves from others when possible.

Besides an exciting two-minute race, fans will also be happy to see a number of Derby traditions continue this year, including the big hats, betting and bourbon.

For nearly a century, the Mint Julep has served as the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, with almost 120,000 served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend, according to their website.

While it is unclear if there will be a limit on alcohol due to COVID-19 safety purposes, it is likely that number will decrease with smaller crowd sizes.

Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby spectators. Mike Coppola/Getty

A Race During Racial Injustice

Though there will be a limit on spectators inside, outside the racetrack thousands of demonstrators are expected to show up on behalf of justice for Breonna Taylor, according to NBC News and The Louisville Courier Journal.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot at least eight times on March 13 in her Louisville home by three white officers. They were later placed on administrative reassignment, but haven't been criminally charged.

Taylor's name has since been echoed in protests across the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died May 25 in police custody.

Many protesters voiced their disapproval with the Derby being held at a time when ongoing tensions over the demand for justice remain high, arguing that the race serves as a "symbol of segregation."

In response to those concerns, the Kentucky Derby issued a statement on their website, vowing to do more to be inclusive of the Louisville community.

A horse competing in the Kentucky Derby.

"We are not doing enough, quickly enough. That is true in our country, in our city and in our sport," the statement read. "We know there are some who disagree with our decision to run the Kentucky Derby this year. We respect that point of view but made our decision in the belief that traditions can remind us of what binds us together as Americans, even as we seek to acknowledge and repair the terrible pain that rends us apart."

"We hear the calls to do more and we have challenged ourselves to do so," the statement continued. "Churchill Downs is committed to engaging in the hard conversations in our city, our sport and within our own organization... to address institutional roadblocks to progress and playing our part in advancing the changes America so desperately needs."

"We recognize that people in our community and across our nation are hurting right now. The atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby will be different this year as we respond to those calls for change. This will be a Derby unlike any other. As it should be," the statement concluded.

Related Articles