Churchill Downs Offering Simulated Kentucky Derby with Triple Crown Winners, Secretariat ‘Virtual’ Favorite

Posted on: May 2, 2020, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: May 3, 2020, 11:49h.

There are many words that can describe spring weather in Louisville, Ky. The most appropriate would be fickle. So it should not be the least bit surprising that the first Saturday in May in 75 years without a Kentucky Derby would have just absolutely spectacular weather forecast.

Virtual Kentucky Derby
Secretariat won the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown. Oddsmakers tab him as the favorite among the 13 Triple Crown winners in a virtual Kentucky Derby taking place Saturday. (Image: Churchill Downs)

Regardless, 80 degrees and sunny is no match for COVID-19, which forced Churchill Downs officials weeks ago to move Derby 146 to Labor Day weekend. However, weep no more my lady, because track officials announced last week that, in conjunction with broadcast partner NBC, the Louisville track would run a “virtual” Derby featuring the 13 Triple Crown winners.

The race will be produced by Inspired Entertainment, using data from each horse’s past performances to determine just how they may stack up in a race against each other. The same company produces a Virtual Grand National race for fans in Great Britain, as well as other virtual sporting events.

Churchill Downs is using the virtual race as a fundraiser for a statewide COVID-19 relief initiative and a track foundation-sponsored fund to help racing industry workers who have been affected by the pandemic. Fans who make a donation at can choose their favorite horse. If he wins, they will enter a drawing to win a VIP experience for the Sept. 5 running of the Derby.

The track will match donations up to $1 million.

“Our fans will be captivated by the realistic view of the virtual race and we can debate, as we do each year, our favorite to win,” said Churchill Downs Track President Kevin Flanery in a statement.

Secretariat the Virtual Favorite

Churchill Downs assigned morning line odds to the horses after post positions were designated for the race. The odds, though, were for discussion only, as betting on virtual races is not legal at US tracks. Secretariat is the morning-line favorite at +350. Citation is right behind at +400, with Affirmed and Seattle Slew right behind at +500 each.

However, that’s not stopping offshore sports and racebooks from offering actual odds on the virtual Derby. A Churchill Downs spokesman told the bets are not sanctioned by the track. lists Secretariat as the +200 favorite in the race, followed by Citation at +500, and American Pharoah at +600.

By comparison, and list Secretariat at -110 odds. Count Fleet, who is +1400 at Sportsbetting, is +400 MyBookie and BetUSRacing. Citation is +600, with American Pharoah and Seattle Slew both at +800.

Oddsmaker: Virtual Games Produce Realistic Results

Davis Strauss, head oddsmaker at MyBookie, told he saw other odds for Secretariat, the 1973 winner, and felt they were far too high.

Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest Derby, completing the 1-1/4-mile race in 1:59.4. He later clinched the Triple Crown with wins in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In the latter, he won that by a whopping 31 lengths.

However, Strauss noted his Curacao-licensed sportsbook has been offering virtual football and basketball games modeled similarly to the Derby for the past six weeks, as real sports offerings have dwindled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Like in real life, the favorite doesn’t always win.

You know, Secretariat lost five races in his career, so maybe he can make it six,” Strauss said with a laugh. “But, for us, if he does win, you know, it’s no big deal. Our players will get a little extra money, and then they can go bet it on the Arkansas Derby, which is running directly after.”

The virtual Kentucky Derby is set to run around 5:45 p.m. ET on NBC.

Bettors at the offshore book have taken to the virtual football and basketball games, Strauss added. He compared the action on the twice-daily games to what they would normally pull for a Sunday afternoon NFL game.