The 149th edition of the Kentucky Derby takes place Saturday with all eyes waiting to see if there’s another potential upset on the cards, but heavy favorite Forte is out of the race.
Forte was scratched on Saturday morning by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission state veterinarian due to a bruised right front foot, Churchill Downs announced.
Forte was listed as the 3-1 morning line favorite to win the first leg on the Triple Crown but now won’t start the race following a decision after a Saturday morning workout, ESPN reported.
Forte is the fifth horse to be scratched from the race and so the number of horses in the field drops to 18. It is the first time since 1936 that five horses have been scratched from the Derby.
The horse, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., was expected to win the race barring an upset.
Rich Strike roared to victory last year against all odds with a late surge on the inside, flying past the rest of the field at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Venezuelan jockey Sonny Leon, Rich Strike was the longest shot in the field at 80/1 and proved that anything can happen in one of sport’s most prestigious races.
Dubbed the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” – a nod to its approximate run time – the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of US horse racing’s coveted Triple Crown, which also includes the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
Here’s all you need to know about the Derby before the race takes place.
How to watch
The Derby will air in the US on NBC, Peacock, the NBC website and its app with coverage of all of Saturday’s races starting at midday.
The iconic race is set to start at 6:57 p.m. ET.
What’s it all about?
The Kentucky Derby is the longest running annual sporting event in the US and it has become far bigger than just the race itself.
As seen in American rapper Jack Harlow’s ‘Churchill Downs’ music video filmed at the event last year, the Derby is a celebration of luxury.
Tonya Abeln, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Churchill Downs, touched on the all-encompassing nature of the event.
“It’s such a convergence of fashion and lifestyle and culinary influence,” Abeln told CNN Sport.
“So even if you’re not interested in the horse racing piece of it, there’s always something that people connect with.”
Abeln confirmed that Harlow would be making an appearance again this year, but that there would be no music video filmed.
In keeping with the celebrity theme, Super Bowl Champion and MVP Patrick Mahomes will be this year’s Riders Up presenter.
The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback will be tasked with instructing the riders to mount their horses before the race.
You also don’t have to be at Churchill Downs to enjoy the race, with home parties taking place all across the US – and the party menu plays an important part, Abeln explained.
“Even for people who are watching at home and having their be-at-home parties, a huge part of that experience is making a menu that feels authentic to the Derby with those classic dishes,” said Abeln.
From Southern Style Pimento Mac and Cheese to Kentucky Butter Cake, menus will likely have been tinkered with plenty of times before hosts have settled on their ultimate Derby Day buffet.
The quintessential Kentucky Derby Mint Julep cocktail is a must for anyone watching, Abeln added.
With the 150th edition of the race coming up next year, changes have already been made at the venue leading up to the celebratory milestone.
Fans may notice that a new permanent structure has been added on the first turn of the racetrack to provide racegoers with stadium-like seating.
New premium luxury suites have also been added in conjunction with the structure to enhance certain viewers’ experiences.
“We have our most premium seating and this new First Turn experience that is dining that’s actually under the structure,” said Abeln.
“Then those people come out to the rail to watch the race. And so not only is that sort of an incredible way to consume the energy of the racing, but now you have this iconic view of the twin spires and of the grandstand that hadn’t been offered before.”
There have also been changes to one of the most important parts of the racecourse – the paddock.
According to Abeln, this was the “place where people went to see and be seen” and “to look at the horses before they run, so they can make their picks.”
This year, the paddock has been flipped around and is now “the first thing you see when you walk into the gates” with a new view of the famous twin spires.
The lineup and odds - is another upset on the cards?
This is the full lineup, how they’re posted and their odds at 10.40 a.m. ET on Saturday morning, per FanDuel:
- Hit Show 26/1
- Verifying 17/1
- Two Phil’s 7/1
- Confidence Game 16/1
- Tapit Trice 9/2
- Kingsbarns 10/1
- Reincarnate 13/1
- Mage 17/1
- Disarm 24/1
- Jace’s Road 32/1
- Sun Thunder 30/1
- Angel of Empire 9/2
- Raise Cain 30/1
- Derma Sotogake 7/1
- Rocket Can 27/1
- Cyclone Mischief 32/1
- Mandarin Hero 21/1
- King Russell 32/1
Following protests at this year’s Grand National in the United Kingdom in April, Abeln said that Churchill Downs had an “obligation” to look after fans, athletes and the horses.
“As a company and a leader in the horse racing industry, we feel a real obligation to be a frontrunner and ensure the safety and security standards,” Abeln said, adding the importance of keeping horses safe.
“So for us, we feel very confident about the standards that we have for ourselves and the obligation we have for athletes that are participating in our event on our properties.”
Since the start of Kentucky Derby week, four race horses have died in separate incidents within a five-day stretch.
In a Wednesday statement, officials said: “While a series of events like this is highly unusual, it is completely unacceptable. We take this very seriously and acknowledge that these troubling incidents are alarming and must be addressed.”
Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), owners of the famed Kentucky Derby, have since indefinitely suspended racehorse trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr., owner of two of the horses which died.
The decision means Lord Miles, another horse trained by Joseph, cannot run as planned in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Joseph Jr. has disagreed with the CDI’s decision.
“Most definitely I am a scapegoat,” Joseph told CNN affiliate WDRB. “I’m the scapegoat. They’ve had more deaths this week, and here is Saffie, this is the problem. Trust me, it’s hard enough that our horses have their issues.”
“But the reality of it is that … I’ve never had horses that die from that issue before. They’ve had injuries but never from something that was unknown. It’s unknown what caused it.”