Tuesday, May 17, 2022
UncategorizedUS to follow suit with virtual Kentucky Derby

US to follow suit with virtual Kentucky Derby

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With the latest Betfair racing results pretty much at a standstill as racing worldwide is put on hold, due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, fans from all corners of the globe will be anticipating a return to racing. While Germany and France have already announced that action will resume in early May, after rescheduling their calendars, the rest of us are awaiting updates from the relevant governing bodies as to when the season can get started again.

And while we were unable to witness a real-life running of the Aintree Grand National on April 4th, a virtual race was run in its place. Televised during its usual spot on ITV, fans were treated to the race in all its glory, albeit computerised. It’s believed at its peak, 4.8 million viewers tuned in to the coverage – significantly higher than last year’s audience for the virtual edition of the race, which was 737,000. More importantly, bookmakers donated profits of more than £2.6m to the NHS, as a result of bets on the digitalised action.

Photo by Jeff Griffith on Unsplash

Across the Atlantic, horse racing has also taken a backseat. The Kentucky Derby, one of the States’ most famous races, was set to take place on May 2nd, the first Saturday of the month – as is customary. However, due to the outbreak, it has been postponed until September 5th. But viewers will still be able to get their fix at the weekend – as a Virtual Kentucky Derby will take place instead. Not only that, but NBC will broadcast a special edition programme, featuring 13 previous Triple Crown winners. The three-hour scheduling will also contain footage of the 2015 Kentucky Derby, as well as interviews with those involved in the sport, including jockeys, trainers and those behind the scenes. Of course, the wider picture is to generate aid for those on the frontline, dealing with the pandemic. Much like the Grand National, it is hoped that the Virtual Kentucky Derby will raise at least $2m worth of COVID-19 emergency relief funds.

The iconic 10-furlong race has been held at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs since 1875, and is one of three races in the famous Triple Crown – with the Preakness Stakes, held at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes in New York completing the trio. Described as ‘the most exciting two minutes in sport’, the Kentucky Derby is the first of the three races and since the turn of the century, there have been only two winners of the Triple Crown, American Pharaoh in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

Like the Grand National, the Kentucky Derby is seen as a family tradition, with fans across the country eagerly anticipating the first Saturday in May every year. While the 146th Derby will eventually take place this autumn – albeit later than scheduled – the additional festivities on what is ‘Derby Day’ will add a bit of excitement to the lives of those who are missing live racing and are in need of something to fill that void. While our dedicated sports channels are filled with trips down memory lane, re-runs of spectacular races and other sporting events, the virtual race will allow us to feel as though normality has resumed. We can debate the favourites, look ahead to the coming months and most importantly, raise vital funds for those who need it.

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