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Kentucky Derby 2020: Preview, contenders, schedule, livestream, how to watch

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. Every year, millions of fans tune into NBC to watch top race horses from around the globe compete in “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.”

Even though the longstanding race was postponed from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition is still fierce, the stakes are as high as ever and the action will be just as intense.

The 146th Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, Sept. 5 starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC as well as NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Post time is set for approximately 7:01 p.m. ET.  NBC Sports will also air the Kentucky Oaks the day before on Friday, September 4 beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

RELATEDDownload the Kentucky Derby at Home Party Pack

What is the Kentucky Derby? The Kentucky Derby is traditionally the first leg of the American Triple Crown of horse racing. It is historically run on the first Saturday in May, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Kentucky Derby was postponed from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5.

When and where is the 2020 Kentucky Derby? The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Post time is set for approximately 7:01 p.m. ET.

The Derby is run on the dirt track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, where it has been held since its inaugural running in 1875.

How can I watch the 2020 Kentucky Derby? NBC is home to the 146th Kentucky Derby, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app before, during and after. NBC will also broadcast the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, the 2020 Preakness Stakes and the 2020 Breeders’ Cup.

How are horses picked for the Derby? Only 3-year-old Thoroughbreds can qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Eligible horses compete in the Race to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races around the world. Horses win points for finishing in the top four spots, and the 20 horses with the most points at the end of the series gain entry into the Derby. (However, sometimes horses will scratch, giving another the opportunity to run in the Derby.)

New York-based Tiz the Law leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with a hulking 372 points, thanks mostly to his Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Florida Derby wins.

RELATED: How to watch the 2020 Kentucky Derby

Who are the horses to watch?

  • After dazzling and dominant trips in New York’s most high profile races, the Belmont Stakes and the Travers StakesBarclay Tagg’s Tiz the Law looks to continue his dominant 3-year-old season in the Kentucky Derby. He shares the same trainer (Tagg) and owners (Sackatoga Stable) as 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide. Tiz the Law opened as the heavy favorite, but his one and only career loss was at Churchill Downs last November.
  • Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. could make Mike Smith, 55, the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Though he was second in his last start (the Aug. 1 Shared Belief) behind fellow Derby contender Thousand Words, Smith said he thought the distance, 3/16th of a mile shorter than the Derby, was too short for him. He notes the horse’s intelligence, while trainer John Shirreffs is impressed by his stride and lightness, and Smith opted for Honor A.P. over another Derby probable, Authentic. Shirreffs and Smith were the winning combo in the 2005 Kentucky Derby with 50-1 longshot Giacomo.
  • Haskell winner Authentic is the first of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s two expected entries in the Derby. In five starts, the Into Mischief colt has four wins and one second, so he’s yet to finish out of the money. His one second place came on June 6 in the Santa Anita Derby, 2 3/4 lengths behind fellow Kentucky Derby contender Honor A.P. This will be Authentic’s first race with Hall of Fame jockey John Velzquez.
  • Bob Baffert’s late bloomer Thousand Words enters the Derby field with an Aug. 1 win in the Shared Belief Stakes, beating Honor A.P. He’s had a bumpy ride, opening his racing career with three-straight wins before losing three in a row and then finally impressing in the Shared Belief. If the Kentucky Derby had been run in May, the $1 million son of Pioneerof the Nile (sire to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) likely wouldn’t have been in the Derby picture, but the later race date gave him time to mature.

Who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby? In a historic race that rocked the sports world, Maximum Security was the first horse to cross the finish line in the 145th Kentucky Derby, but minutes later, an objection was called and the track stewards began closely examining the race.

They ruled that on the final turn, Maximum Security moved out of his lane and bumped his hind right leg into eventual 2020 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will, impeding the forward motion of him as well as several other horses.

Since this significantly impacted the overall outcome of the race, Maximum Security was disqualified and second place finisher Country House was elevated to first. For the first time ever, the horse that made it to the wire first was disqualified on-site.

How has COVID-19 affected the 2020 Kentucky Derby? Besides a new date, the 146th Kentucky Derby will run without fans in the stands.

The postponement was an attempt to wait out the pandemic and hopefully have spectators attend. Churchill Downs first issued strict COVID-19 guidelines with a limited fan capacity before announcing that the Derby and Oaks would run spectatorless. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear will also forego the tradition of meeting the winning connections after the race and will be watching from home instead.

Also because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its related safety precautions (riders must be at Churchill Downs by Aug. 31, the Monday of Derby week), several top riders including last year’s Derby winner Flavien Prat and wildly successful brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr. won’t be making the trip down to Kentucky. Instead, they’ll stay at their home tracks to keep riding.

Jockeys across the country have been wearing facemasks while racing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unrelated to the pandemic but still new this year is a custom, controversial 20-horse starting gate. Before the new addition, the Kentucky Derby used a more standard 14-horse gate attached to a six-horse auxiliary gate. Because of COVID-19, the gate’s arrival and assembly was delayed and it wasn’t tested out until Derby week.

What are the biggest Kentucky Derby traditions? The Mint Julep, made with Kentucky bourbon, is the signature drink of the Derby, and foods with a rich Kentucky history like bourbon balls and hot browns are a must for any watch party. Download the NBC Sports Kentucky Derby at Home Party Pack for recipes, cocktails, printable decorations, at-home fashion tips, kids crafts and more.

Additionally, Kentucky’s state song “My Old Kentucky Home” is played during the pre-race post parade. After the race, the champion horse is given the iconic garland of roses in the winner’s circle.

Betting and horse racing go hand in hand. There will be a whole weekend of stacked racing cards at Churchill Downs, but the Kentucky Derby takes the betting cake.

In a normal year where the Derby is packed with fans from around the country, bold and formal outfits for both men and women are a must. Celebrities and fans a like go all out, donning creative and colorful hats, bright colors and wild patterns. In fact, hats and outfits are such a big part of the Kentucky Derby that the Derby Museum has a whole exhibit for the most lavished fashions.

Watch the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

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