A crowd of 45,000 is expected at Kentucky Derby when the Triple Crown of horse racing returns to Louisville

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The Kentucky Derby returns! 45,000 racegoers in some VERY colorful outfits (with matching face masks) head to Churchill Downs eight months after it was run without spectators due to the pandemic

  • The Kentucky Derby returns to its traditional place on the calendar – the first Saturday of May
  • After being disrupted by a pandemic, the event is back with many of its traditions intact
  • The 147th edition comes less than eight months after it ran without spectators last September
  • About 45,000 are expected to be present, 100,000 less than usual, and safety protocols have been established

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The bourbon is flowing again, flowery hats and people are on the scene, and 19 horses are ready to run the most chaotic race of their lives. After being disrupted by a pandemic, the Kentucky Derby is back with many of its traditions intact.

America’s longest continuously held sporting event returns to its traditional place on the calendar – the first Saturday in May.

The 147th edition comes less than eight months after it ran without spectators last September due to COVID-19, making it the shortest time between Derbies in history.

“I hoped to enjoy my Derby victory a little longer,” joked trainer Bob Baffert, who earned his sixth with Authentic last year.

The eerie silence that fell over Churchill Downs last year when no spectators were allowed is being replaced by about 45,000 visitors – some 100,000 less than usual. Masks are required. Food and drinks are all-inclusive to reduce long lines and separate payments for each transaction.

With the Derby restored to its usual day, last year’s upside-down Triple Crown has been rectified. The Preakness follows on May 15, and the Belmont, which started the series a year ago, will close it on June 5.

A woman snaps a photo with her cellphone while wearing a pink feathered hat while attending the Kentucky Oaks race at Churchill Downs.

A woman snaps a photo with her cellphone while wearing a pink feathered hat while attending the Kentucky Oaks race at Churchill Downs.

A participant in the Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, wears a horse-themed hat

A participant in the Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, wears a horse-themed hat

A racer at the 147th Kentucky Derby wears a matching mask with a lipstick highlight to match her red and black outfit

A racer at the 147th Kentucky Derby wears a matching mask with a lipstick highlight to match her red and black outfit

Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality became the 2-1 morning line favorite for the 1 1/4 mile race for 3 year olds. Post time is 6:57 PM ET.

A son of Tapit, Essential Quality took the 5-out-5 in his career when he won the Blue Grass Stakes by neck on April 3.

Luis Saez will ride Essential Quality, which will break the number 14 post position. Cox also sends 15-1 Mandaloun to the No. 7 post under jockey Florent Geroux.

During his first Derby, Cox will aim to become the first Louisville resident to win the 147th Run for the Roses.

Essential Quality is owned and bred by Godolphin Racing, the stable of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, who is 0-for-11 in his decades-long quest to win America’s greatest race.

An Essential Quality win would bring extra focus to human rights issues involving the Sheikh, who will not be among the limited fans in attendance.

Due to concerns about COVID, visitors must wear a mask to enter Churchill Downs for the 147th Kentucky Derby

Due to concerns about COVID, visitors must wear a mask to enter Churchill Downs for the 147th Kentucky Derby

A woman accessorizes her flowery hat with a matching pink mas and pink-hued hues at Churchill Downs for the 147th Kentucky Derby

A woman accessorizes her flowery hat with a matching pink mas and pink-hued hues at Churchill Downs for the 147th Kentucky Derby

Participants in their best outfits line up as they make their way to Churchill Downs on Saturday for the 147th Kentucky Derby

Participants in their best outfits line up as they make their way to Churchill Downs on Saturday for the 147th Kentucky Derby

Horse racing fans pose for the cameras as they wear horse-themed marching outfits in Churchill Downs on Fridays

Horse racing fans pose for the cameras as they wear horse-themed marching outfits in Churchill Downs on Fridays

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission received a complaint this week from a group of human rights lawyers and students at the University of Louisville, asking to ban Sheikh Mohammed from Derby for alleged human rights violations. A judge in England ruled that he orchestrated the kidnappings of two of his adult daughters.

Essential Quality jockey Luis Saez is looking for his first Derby win after crossing the finish line first aboard Maximum Security in 2019, but his colt was disqualified.

“Essential Quality is a creditable favorite,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, “but I think it’s a wide open race.”

Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner, saddles four starters, led by 6-1 shot Known Agenda. His others are listed with double digits: 20-1 Dynamic One, 30-1 Bourbonic and 50-1 Sainthood.

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