Churchill Downs will miss the pomp and circumstance that would typically descend on the iconic grounds for the Kentucky Derby, but the racetrack will instead host its first-ever virtual run for the roses to support coronavirus relief efforts.
The annual event on the first Saturday in May was postponed until Sept. 5 due to concerns of coronavirus, so the track came up with a computer-simulated race and nationwide at-home Derby party to help raise money for COVID-19 emergency relief funds.
Thirteen past Triple Crown winners will face off in a virtual race under the historic Twin Spires for “The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown” on NBC. The computer-simulated version of the fastest two minutes in sports will “use data algorithms including historical handicapping information about each horse, which helps to determine the probability of their potential finishing positions.”
Fans can pick a favorite horse to win the virtual race online and make a charitable donation to COVID-19 relief efforts. Anyone who selects the winning horse will be entered for a chance to win the ultimate Kentucky Derby 146 VIP Experience.
“Churchill Downs has pledged to match up to $1 million of donations with funds to be directed to the Team Kentucky Fund and Direct Relief,” according to a press release. “A small percentage will be earmarked for the R.E.I.N. Fund (Relief for Equine Industry Needs), a program managed by Churchill Downs Foundation designed to benefit workers of the backside whose livelihood has been impacted by COVID-19 and also to help ensure essential care for horses throughout the pandemic.”
“We are proud to use this platform as a force for good by raising money for these worthy COVID-19 emergency initiatives,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated, said. “We urge fans to join us by donating and celebrating with us from home.”
The interactive party hosted by Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum encourages fans to wear fancy suits and dresses and drink mint juleps to celebrate Derby Day at home.
“For many fans around the country, the first Saturday in May has become a part of their family’s yearly traditions,” Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, said. “While we eagerly look forward to the 146th Kentucky Derby this year on the first Saturday in September, we will celebrate the annual excitement of our traditional date with our fans and community by offering ways for us to join together for a great cause. Our fans will be captivated by the realistic view of the virtual race and we can debate, as we do each year, our favorite to win.”
If you want to brush up on your mixology skills to sip on the spectator favorite cocktail at home this weekend, check out the recipe for the Official Mint Julep of Churchill Downs from Woodford Reserve.
2 ounces bourbon
2 bar spoons of honey sweetener
2 fresh mint leaves
Shaved honeycomb and a sprig of mint for garnish
Rub the mint around the inside of the julep cup, to express the essential oils and place the mint leaf in the bottom of the cup.
Drizzle two bar spoons of honey sweetener in the cup, followed by two ounces of bourbon, mixing the ingredients together.
Pack crushed ice into the cup, followed by placing the sipping straw.
Layer loose ice on top, with a splash of bourbon to settle the drink.
Garnish with shaved honeycomb and a sprig of mint.
Other online festivities from Churchill Downs include DIY fascinator-making with full instructions on the blog here, ideas for party decor, kids’ crafts, Derby-inspired recipes and even an at-home Derby fashion contest.
People around the country can join the virtual party and share their own home Derby Party experience using #KyDerbyAtHome on Saturday, May 2, and follow @KentuckyDerby on social media.