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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Churchill Downs Press Staff  – Secretariat, considered by many as the most talented and iconic Thoroughbred to have raced in America, has been established as the horse to beat in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown by veteran odds maker Mike Battaglia.

The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown is an animated race created by Inspired Entertainment Inc. using computer-generated imagery that will feature the 13 past Triple Crown winners in a 1 ¼-mile race at historic Churchill Downs.

The virtual race will be included in NBC’s broadcast of “The First Saturday In May: American Pharoah’s Run to the Triple Crown,” that airs Saturday (May 2) from 3-6 p.m. ET. The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown will air in its entirety during the broadcast at approximately 5:45 p.m. ET.

Secretariat, the two-time Horse of the Year who swept the 1973 Triple Crown with a stirring 31-length romp in the Belmont Stakes, landed post position No. 3 in a random draw for the field of 13 legends and was made the 7-2 morning line favorite. Calumet Farm’s multiple champion Citation, who won 27 of 29 races at age 2 and 3 including a sweep of the 1948 Triple Crown, is the 4-1 second choice with Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the 1977-78 Triple Crown winners, respectively, each listed at 5-1.

The complete field from the rail out (with Triple Crown-winning year, jockey, trainer and morning line odds): #1 Affirmed (1978, Steve Cauthen, Laz Barrera, 5-1); #2 Assault (1946, Warren Mehrtens, Max Hirsch, 20-1); #3 Secretariat (1973, Ron Turcotte, Lucien Lauren, 7-2); #4 Sir Barton (1919, Johnny Loftus, Guy Bedwell, 20-1); #5 Seattle Slew (1977, Jean Cruguet, Billy Turner Jr., 5-1); #6 American Phraoah (2015, Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert, 6-1); #7 Gallant Fox (1930, Earl Sande, “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons, 20-1); #8 Citation (1948, Eddie Arcaro, Ben Jones, 4-1); #9 War Admiral (1937, Charlie Kurtsinger, George Conway, 8-1); #10 Whirlaway (1941, Eddie Arcaro, Ben Jones, 4-1); #11 Count Fleet (1943, Johnny Longden, Don Cameron, 6-1); #12 Justify (2018, Mike Smith, Bob Baffert, 15-1); and #13 Omaha (1935, Willie “Smokey” Saunders, “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons, 20-1).

“I’ve got to give Secretariat the edge,” said Battaglia, who has made the morning line at Churchill Downs since 1974. “This was a really fun morning line to make and I’m looking forward to the race.”

Battaglia also quipped: “I didn’t have the heart to hang more than 20-1 odds on a Triple Crown winner!” 

There is no betting on the virtual race, but starting Thursday (April 30) at 10 a.m. ET, fans will be able to visit to choose their favorite horse to win the virtual race and also join Churchill Downs in making a charitable donation to COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.

All participants who select the winning horse will be entered in a sweepstakes to win an ultimate Kentucky Derby 146 VIP Experience.

To determine the probability of each contender winning the race, select officials from Churchill Downs analyzed the historical past performance of each Triple Crown winner and incorporated the opinions of distinguished horse racing experts who evaluated each contender’s achievements and put them into historical perspective.

That information, known as the Fundamental Probabilities, was fed into Inspire Entertainment’s computer models which will determine the final result by using these probabilities in conjunction with random number generation.

The Fundamental Probabilities only determine the chances of each horse winning the race. Those with a higher probability value are not necessarily going to win the race, they just have a greater chance of doing so.

The morning line odds are completely independent of the Fundamental Probabilities and Battaglia was not aware of the Fundamental Probabilities for each horse when setting them.

The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown is part of Churchill Downs’ day-long at-home Kentucky Derby party on the first Saturday in May – the traditional date of the annual Kentucky Derby – to raise $2 million for COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.

Though the 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve was postponed until Sept. 5 this year due to public health concerns related to the spread of COVID-19, Churchill Downs invites fans to honor the annual tradition while staying “Healthy at Home.” 

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. 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.

A full day of online festivities is planned on Saturday (May 2), designed to encourage the perfect interactive Kentucky Derby party at home. Churchill Downs will join the Kentucky Derby Museum and other partners to offer virtual tours, Derby cocktail and fascinator-making instructions, ideas for party decorations, kids’ crafts, Derby-inspired recipes, an at-home Derby fashion contest and much more.

“For many fans around the country, the first Saturday in May has become a part of their family’s yearly traditions,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack.

“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.”

“The anticipation of which Triple Crown winner will emerge as the ultimate champion is thrilling,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated, “but most importantly, we are proud to use this platform as a force for good by raising money for these worthy COVID-19 emergency initiatives. We urge fans to join us by donating and celebrating with us from home.”

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