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Kentucky Derby Live Updates: Race Hours, Odds & More

Credit…Christian Hansen for The New York Times

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the Triple Crown calendar in 2020. The Belmont Stakes, normally the final stage of the Triple Crown, took place in June, the Derby in September and the Preakness, usually the second of three races, arrived last, with a new date in October. All are returning to their usual places on the calendar this year and will allow a limited number of fans.

The Derby regularly brings crowds of over 150,000 people to Churchill Downs. Organizers, while declining to give a fixed limit, said reserved seats, which normally represent around 60,000 people, would be limited to between 40 and 60 percent, depending on the seating area. General admission to the field only will be maintained at around 25-30% of capacity, they said. That would put the crowd at around 50,000 people. The crowd announced for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday was 41,472.

Fans are required to wear masks when not eating and drinking, although many ignore this guideline. Perhaps the most welcome change was that all reserved seats included unlimited food and drink, a move to cut queues and exchange money.

After a recent period of bad weather on Derby weekend, Friday and Saturday runners took advantage of the mid-70s sun and temperatures. Vendors strolled the aisles freely handing out pink lily drinks and mint juleps, normally $ 12 each. The betting windows were open, although organizers were promoting the use of mobile apps to place bets, and there were no queues, even for the bathrooms.

Longtime Derby Weekend customers praised the new elbow room under the famous Twin Spiers and asked why it couldn’t always be so. “Isn’t that great?” was a common expression.

Jessica Kessinger, from Louisville, was sitting in a box on the rail that overlooked the finish line; all other boxes were blocked with a green tarp. His group has been coming to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May for several years. Besides last year, they could all count on one hand those they had missed since their premiere.

“I am fully vaccinated and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” she said. “After a very long year of distress, despair and loneliness, it’s so nice to be with friends again and to celebrate the Derby.”

Kentucky Derby Live Updates: Race Hours, Odds & More
Credit…Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Essential Quality, the 2-year-old champion who is unbeaten in five starts, is the 2-1 favorite from the morning line in what appears to be a somewhat even 19-horsepower Derby pitch. (King Fury scratched himself with a fever on Friday.)

After winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November, he won the Southwest Stakes on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park in February and the Blue Grass Stakes by a neck on the Highly Motivated Derby contender in April.

With a win, he would become the ninth undefeated horse to win the Derby (the last was Justify in 2018) and just the third winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (joining Street Sense and Nyquist). Son of leading stallion Tapit, Essential Quality has a pedigree suited to the Derby’s mile and quarter distance, and he has shown versatility winning on three tracks and under different pace scenarios.

Brad Cox, who will also be saddling Mandaloun’s 15-1 shot, is looking to become the first Louisville-born coach to win the race. A Derby victory on his first try would end Cox’s rapid rise to the top of the sport: the 41-year-old won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Coach last year after saddling four Breeders’ Cup winners and won 30 ranked stakes races.

“We were very fortunate to win two Kentucky Oaks, seven Breeders’ Cup races and an Eclipse award, and these are things that I will never forget and are very proud of,” said Cox. “But the Kentucky Derby is No.1, and that would mean a lot.”

Essential Quality is owned by the controversial ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, whose daughter, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, said the sheikh was keeping her captive and was afraid for her life. Sheikh Mohammed’s highly successful Godolphin racing empire is looking for its first Derby victory after 11 previous tries. Godolphin’s best result dates back to 2015, when Frosted finished fourth.

Essential Quality will be ridden by Luis Saez, who is 0 for 7 in the Derby, although he experienced the thrill of winning for a brief period in 2019 before his Maximum Security mount was disqualified for interference.

Kentucky Derby Live Updates: Race Hours, Odds & More
Credit…Xavier Burrell for The New York Times

Coverage of the 147th Kentucky Derby is on NBC. The publication time for the mile-and-a-quarter race is 6:57 p.m. It will also air on NBC Sports Live.

Here are the morning line odds, set by Mike Battaglia of Churchill Downs, for the 19 horse field. The live odds are here. If you are not on a tour, bets can be placed through online betting sites.

1. Known agenda (6-1)

2. Like the king (50-1)

3. Brooklyn Strong (50-1)

4. Keepmeinmind (50-1)

5. Sainthood (50-1)

6. O Besos (20-1)

7. Mandaloun (15-1)

8. Medina Spirit (15-1)

9. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)

10. Midnight Bourbon (20-1)

11. Dynamic One (20-1)

12. Helium (50-1)

13. Hidden reserve (50-1)

14. Essential quality (2-1)

15. Rock Your World (5-1)

16. King Fury (striped)

17. Very motivated (10-1)

18. Super stock (30-1)

19. Soup and sandwich (30-1)

20. Bourbonic (30-1)

Kentucky Derby Live Updates: Race Hours, Odds & More
Credit…Jordan Prather / USA Today Sports, via Reuters

For more than 20 years, the abnormally large field of the Kentucky Derby required two starting gates – the standard 14-horsepower gate and a six-stall auxiliary gate. This created an awkward gap between positions 14 and 15. In 2020, Churhill Downs launched a bespoke 20 horsepower gate that distributes horses more evenly and reduces traffic jams.

With the old gate, the horses closest to the rail had to snap sharply to avoid being pinched by the field as the rest of the field moved inside. And horses outside the main gate or inside the auxiliary gate have been at a contact disadvantage due to the tendency of horses to rush towards the open space.

The new gate, designed by Australian company Steriline Racing, not only eliminates this gap, but also leaves more room on the rail, making the dreaded No.1 spot less of a problem: it only produced eight winners, and none since Ferdinand in 1986 This was good news for Known Agenda Connections # 1.

For all the talk on the railroad pole, the horses that pulled away from Post 17 got even worse, going from 0 to 41. With King Fury’s number 16 scratched on Friday with fever, all of the horses in its exterior will move to the same location, while the positions of the posts will remain unchanged. This means that the highly motivated No.17’s chances have improved, as he entered hole 16, and poor Super Stock will now run against history.

We know there’s a horse race today, but here’s a look at the other Churchill Downs stars.

Kentucky Derby Live Updates: Race Hours, Odds & More
Credit…Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Joe Drape’s winning-seat-show picks (his initial pick to win, King Fury, was scratched on Friday with a fever):

Mandaloun: If you can forget a sixth-place clunker in the Louisiana Derby, this colt compares to the favorites. He worked on the extinction in the morning.

Essential quality: The Blue Grass winner and 2-year-old champion is a deserving favorite after winning all five of his races. The only question is, how much did the Blue Grass take away from him?

Helium: The Tampa Bay Derby winner is unbeaten in three starts, and he runs better every time he starts. There isn’t much to do, but it’s worth a $ 2 flyer.

Melissa Hoppert’s choices:

Known agenda: He’s won back-to-back races with a combined 13¾ length since the addition of the blinders, and he’ll have the # 1 jockey in North America on his back. I will try my luck in case of annoyance.

Essential quality: He won his first race on the rescheduled Derby day in September and hasn’t stopped since, securing victories on three circuits, on fast and sloppy surfaces, while employing a variety of racing styles. Definitely the one to beat.

Midnight Bourbon: He hit the table in each of his seven races, and he picked a Hall a Fame runner. Plus, this horse has cum: he was talking from the back when he broke free trying to avoid taking a bath.

Here’s a look at how some horses prepared earlier on Saturday.

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