Who would win a race of all of the Triple Crown winners if they could have raced together? Now we know thanks to a virtual edition of “The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown,” a computer-simulated version of a race under the historic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. Fans tuned in to a special broadcast on NBC on May 2, from 3 to 6 p.m. EST, which also featured the 2015 Kentucky Derby that began the legendary American Pharoah’s historic Triple Crown run. The broadcast was in lieu of the running of the 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, which was was postponed until Sept. 5 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual race, created by Inspired Entertainment, featured the past Triple Crown winners and used data algorithms, including historical handicapping information about each horse, which helped to determine the probability of their potential finishing positions.
The past Triple Crown winners span from the 2019 Kentucky Derby with the win of Sir Barton, who would go on to win the first Triple Crown, although it wasn’t called that back then. The term “Triple Crown” wasn’t put into official usage until 1930 when Gallant Fox won. Of course, a race between these 13 horses is hard to handicap since there are so many variables over the past 101 years. The biggest variable to factor in is the variance in track speeds, since footing has allowed horses to go faster and faster over the years, which makes it hard to just consider the finishing times of each horse.
Of course, Secretariat is considered to have run the fastest Triple Crown in history. Secretariat broke the first 25-year drought of winners—from 1948, when Citation won, to Secretariat’s win in 1973. There was another major drought of 37 years, between 1978’s win by Affirmed to the win in 2015 of American Pharoah. Secretariat’s Kentucky Derby time of 1:59⅖ for 1¼-miles was a Derby record that has stood the test of time. In addition, his Preakness time of 1:53 for ¼-mile less was also a race record that stands today. And finally, his Belmont time of 2:24 flat for 1½ miles was not only a stakes record, but a world record that also still stands.
Fans could choose their pick to win the Triple Crown Showdown virtual race and donate to COVID-19 emergency relief efforts. Churchill Downs pledged to match up to $1 million of donations with funds to be directed to the Team Kentucky Fund and Direct Relief. The Team Kentucky Fund was initiated by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to provide assistance to Kentuckians who have been severely financially impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Direct Relief’s COVID-19 Fund for Community Health supports healthcare workers’ safety and essential services they provide at America’s safety-net community and health centers and clinics. A small percentage is earmarked for the Relief for Equine Industry Needs (R.E.I.N.) Fund. R.E.I.N. was established by the Churchill Downs Foundation in response to the growing needs in the racing industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent interruption of customary racing operations.
Before you see who won the Triple Crown Showdown below (if you haven’t already seen it), add your pick in the comments below on who you think will win.
- Virtual Kentucky Derby at Home Set for First Saturday in May on NBC With All Triple Crown Winners
- 2020 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks to be Postponed Due to COVID-19