Churchill Downs looking to open

As he did for much of his career, Secretariat did the impossible last Saturday. The horse won the Kentucky Derby for the second time.

In a virtual reality Triple Crown Showdown staged to fill in for the originally scheduled May 2 Derby date, Secretariat defeated a field of all 13 Triple Crown winners in history over the 1 1/4-mile course. Computer data produced the result.

Almost simultaneously, Churchill Downs announced plans to return to real life following the track’s shutdown due to the coronavirus.

The stable area is scheduled to open May 11 after receiving authorization from Kentucky state officials. Horses and their human connections will be able to resume training.

Also, the opening day of the annual spring meeting is set for May 16, though racing will take place minus spectators. The track is set to be active for May 16-17 weekend and then will follow a Thursday-Sunday schedule. However, a special holiday card is set for Memorial Day, May 25.

The 146th Kentucky Derby has been re-scheduled for Sept. 5.

The Triple Crown Showdown was part of a television show in what would have been the Derby’s usual time slot. Commentator Mike Tirico termed the meeting between all of the past Triple Crown winners “the biggest of the big.”

The event went so far as to post odds on the horses, although no betting was permitted. Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown victor, and the record-setter in the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, was favored.

Secretariat came back from the dead to win the fictional race and also came from behind as Seattle Slew set the early pace. The race was close, but the result was indisputable with Secretariat first, Citation, the 1948 champion second and Seattle Slew third. Affirmed finished fourth and American Pharoah fifth.

The only two horses still living from the Triple Crown group are American Pharoah, the 2012 winner, and Justify, the 2015 winner. Both were trained by Bob Baffert.

COVID-19 shut down all scheduled Derby preps of the spring, but Saturday, the Arkansas Derby was contested at Oaklawn Park without spectators. It was split into two divisions and both victorious horses, Nadal and Charlatan, were also trained by Baffert.