CDI, Inspired Entertainment to run virtual Kentucky Derby


churchill-downs-inspired-entertainment-virtual-kentucky-derbyThe Kentucky Derby may have been postponed due to COVID-19 but a virtual all-star version of the race will take its spot on the calendar to raise funds for the state’s pandemic relief efforts.

The 146th Kentucky Derby was supposed to take place on Saturday, May 2 at the fabled Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville but the event was postponed until September 5, by which time (hopefully) mass gatherings won’t serve as COVID-19 petri dishes.

In the meantime, casino and race betting operator Churchill Downs Inc (CDI) has decided not to let a mere pandemic mess with tradition. CDI has teamed up with virtual race/sports firm Inspired Entertainment to stage Triple Crown Showdown, a simulated race featuring the 13 past Triple Crown winners facing off for virtual bragging rights.

CDI is taking a page out of the UK’s Grand National, which was supposed to take place in early April but was cancelled due to COVID-19. For three years, Inspired had run a Virtual Grand National prior to the real deal as a teaser but the virtual race took the spotlight this year, raising £2.6m for charity and attracting six times its normal TV audience.

The Triple Crown Showdown will air on NBC on May 2 and, starting April 30, race fans can log on to to make their pick for the virtual winner. Participants will be encouraged to make a donation to COVID-19 relief efforts and CDI has pledged to match these donations up to $1m.

CDI is also encouraging racing fans to make a day of it by hosting ‘Derby Parties’ in their homes, and is promising a “full day of online festivities … the perfect interactive Kentucky Derby party.”

CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen said his company was “proud to use this platform as a force for good by raising money” for pandemic relief. “We urge fans to join us by donating and celebrating with us from home.”

CDI’s advance deposit wagering site TwinSpires doesn’t (yet) appear to have a betting market for the Triple Crown Showdown. UK bookmakers offered wagers on the Virtual Grand National with the understanding that all their profits from the race would go to charity and winning bettors were encouraged to donate their winnings.