Displaced Derby

For decades, horse trainers have worked hard to ensure that their best 3-year-old Thoroughbreds are ready to deliver peak performances on the first Saturday in May, the annual date of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at historic Churchill Downs.

But due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Churchill Downs announced on Saint Patrick’s Day that the 2020 Kentucky Derby will be postponed from May 2nd and moved to September 5th.

So now the date to target date (for peak performance) is the first Saturday in September, and this change promises to have a far-reaching impact on the complexion of the race.

A four-month delay might not seem like much in the scheme of things, but four months is a long time in the sport of horse racing.

Thoroughbreds mature quickly during their 3-year-old seasons, and there’s no guarantee the best horse in May will still be the division leader in September.

In fact, history shows us that the star of the summer is often a late-maturing colt who either skipped or ran poorly in the traditional spring classics.

If you were to review the results of the last decade you would find plenty of Kentucky Derby Winners who were nowhere to be found by the first Saturday in September, leaving up-and-comers to dominate the rich races of summer and fall.

In short, the postponement of the Kentucky Derby figures to significantly alter which horses will be ready to vie for Victory when the race is finally run.

It is possible the 2020 racing season won’t progress along these typical lines. Given that there will no longer be an all-out effort for horsemen to have their horses in peak form on the first Saturday in May, the best 3-year-olds of the winter and spring may avoid burning out and instead stretch their dominance into late summer.

On the other hand, there’s a strong chance the horse who will shine brightest on the first Saturday in September is still in the shadows, unheralded and waiting for a chance to enter the spotlight.

No matter how you slice it, the Road to the Kentucky Derby has taken a wild detour, sending horsemen and handicappers alike into uncharted territory.  But the prep races, and the Kentucky Derby points they award still matter.

So on Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at Saturday’s Louisiana Derby held at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans.  Be sure to stop back and check out our picks.

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