Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

NBC forces America's greatest ghost horses to battle it out for the amusement of Kentucky Derby fans

Secretariat says: “Let my tormented and weary spirit rest!”
Secretariat says: “Let my tormented and weary spirit rest!”
Photo: Bettman (Getty Images)

[Note: This article contains spoilers for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. No, we weren’t expecting to write that sentence today, either.]

We’ve known for more than a month now that this year’s Kentucky Derby will not only be decadent and depraved, but also delayed, with the annual event—which would have run today, the first Saturday in May, in non-corona times—having been moved back to September 5. But fear not, horse-enabled drunks of America: NBC is here to ensure that you still have something equine on your television to yell at while your aunt sends you Zoom chats of her increasingly elaborate hats. CNN is reporting that the network will not only be broadcasting a rerun of the 2015 Derby this afternoon, but also—and god, but do we wish we could have been in the room for this pitch—a “virtual Derby” pitting some of the fastest winners from history against each other.

The actual Derby broadcast—documenting the start of American Pharoah’s daringly misspelled Triple Crown run, the greatest achievement in all of sports in which the actual honoree has no ability to comprehend that they’ve achieved it—will kick off at 3 p.m. Eastern, the perfect Saturday afternoon time to get just absolutely wrecked on juleps. The virtual Derby—or, as it’s formally known, The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdownwill follow directly after, pitting all 12 Triple Crown winners from history against each other, or, at least, “each other.” The race will use “data algorithms and historical handicapping information about each horse” in order to determine to what degree each of the participants will wind up losing to Secretariat’s ghost.


But while this digital horse seance does sound fascinating—and yes, as far as we can tell, they really are going to broadcast virtual animals running around a virtual horse track on national TV, which is exquisite—we know the real question bursting in your hearts, Derby fans: Will you be able to gamble on it?

Tragically, the answer appears to be no: While there have been odds posted for the event, and you can place money on a horse to win, all that cash will go directly to charity. Instead, those who pick the correct horse will get VIP passes to the actual Derby later this year. We did look around at some of the online betting sites, but, while our computer now somehow smells like the inside of a beer-splattered ashtray, we didn’t find anybody willing to take actual money for the event. (Although we’re sure industrious addicts will find a way.) Meanwhile, the donations will go to Kentucky’s COVID-19 fund-raising efforts, as well as to Direct Relief, with the Churchhill Downs Foundation matching funds through the first $1 million raised.

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