Saturday, May 21, 2022

2022 Kentucky Derby: Why the 148th Run for the Roses marks a return to normalcy

The 2022 Kentucky Derby is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 7 and open the chase for the Triple Crown. For the first time in three years, the race is signifying a return to normalcy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the Kentucky Derby in each of the last two years.

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In 2020, the Kentucky Derby was scheduled for the first Saturday in May as it traditionally is. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Triple Crown race to be postponed and rescheduled for Sept. 5. The entire horse racing calendar was altered in 2020 as a result as the original postponement. The Triple Crown order usually consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes and has been that way since 1969. Instead, the Belmont Stakes, which is traditionally the longest of the three legs, led off the Triple Crown and the Kentucky Derby served as the second leg followed by the Preakness Stakes.

It marked the first time since World War II that the Kentucky Derby wasn’t run on the first Saturday in May.

The 2020 installment of the Kentucky Derby also was held without spectators in the stands at the Churchill Downs. Originally, Churchill Downs planned to allow fans to attend both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, but ended up scraping those plans due to an elevation in positive COVID-19 cases in the Louisville area.

Meanwhile, the 2021 edition of the Kentucky Derby was a little more traditional. The 147th “Run for the Roses” took place on the first Saturday in May as it had in the past. 

Still, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Churchill Downs to have reduced attendance at around 60 percent capacity. There were an estimated 15,000 general admission tickets that were sold in the infield, which is between 25-30 percent of that area’s normal capacity.

The 2021 installment wasn’t without its fair share of chaos, though. Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Kentucky Derby, but tested positive for a banned substance, betamethasone, following the race. Betamethasone is legal in the state of Kentucky, but it’s illegal to use it on the day of a race.

As a result of the failed drug test, Mandaloun was recognized as the official winner after Medina Spirit was stripped of the victory. Due to the positive test, Baffert won’t have any horses running in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.

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