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Kentucky Derby: 'It's Going to Be Weird'

The crowd, and many of the traditions, will be missing this year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 4, 2020 5:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – Forget the mint juleps in souvenir glasses, men in seersucker suits, and women wearing hats exploding in a floral frenzy. The Kentucky Derby still has horses—Tiz the Law is the biggest favorite in 31 years—but just about everything else makes the 146th edition unlike any other. "It's going to be weird,” said five-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. None of the cheering—or cursing after losing wagers—from 150,000 fans will be heard this year at Churchill Downs, where America’s longest continuously held sports event will go on Saturday, four months later than usual. The track initially planned to allow 23,000 fans to attend until escalating positivity rates for COVID-19 in Louisville dictated otherwise, the AP reports. "Quietude can't hurt," said Barclay Tagg, trainer of 3-5 favorite Tiz the Law. "We've had quiet for almost all his races this year."

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Of course, silence changes the very nature of the Derby, known for a mix of the raucous and refined, the freakish and fashionable. Gone will be the parade of celebrities on the red carpet, the who's who of sports, politics and entertainment crowding Millionaires Row, the national anthem sung by a big name. The University of Louisville marching band won't strike up "My Old Kentucky Home" while the crowd sings along as the horses step onto the track, and the traditional call of "Riders up!" won't be shouted by a bold-faced name standing in the paddock. And there could be protests Saturday. The death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot and killed by police in her apartment in March, has fueled tense demonstrations for 100 consecutive days in Louisville. The three officers involved in her death have not been charged.

(Read more Kentucky Derby stories.)

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