Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) is to stage a virtual edition of the annual Kentucky Derby horse racing event to help raise money for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) emergency relief efforts in the US.
Last month, CDI announced that the 146th Kentucky Derby would not take place as scheduled on May 2 due to the coronavirus outbreak, and instead move to the later date of September 5.
To help fill the void left by the postponement, CDI will host a day-long virtual event on the original date that the event had been due to run, including a simulated Kentucky Derby race.
Developed in partnership with Inspired Entertainment, the Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown will feature the 13 past Triple Crown winners and use data algorithms to determine the probability of their potential race positions.
Earlier this month Inspired provided the technology for a virtual variant of the UK’s flagship horse racing event, the Grand National, which raised £2.6m ($3.2m) for the National Health Service.
Fans can visit the official Kentucky Derby website and select which horse they think will win the virtual race, with the chance to win a VIP experience at the actual Kentucky Derby later this year.
In addition, punters can make a donation to the coronavirus emergency relief efforts. CDI pledged to match up to $1m of donations with funds to be directed to the Team Kentucky Fund and Direct Relief.
“For many fans around the country, the first Saturday in May has become a part of their family’s yearly traditions,” Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said.
“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.”
CDI chief executive Bill Carstanjen added: “The anticipation of which Triple Crown winner will emerge as the ultimate champion is thrilling, 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.”