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Kentucky Derby: Fans return for the splendor and the glory

By
Glenn Singer
Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality prepares to go to the track Thursday during for an early morning workout as he prepares for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality prepares to go to the track Thursday during for an early morning workout as he prepares for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

May 1 (UPI) -- The 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby, which some fans think is the greatest couple of minutes in sports, will be run Saturday evening at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., with 19 horses -- or perhaps fewer -- competing in the "Run for the Roses."

The race is open to fans this year, after they were barred a year ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The crowd will be limited by about half of capacity to about 50,000, and many spectators will be decked out in their finest, with ladies' hats drawing the most interest among those attending.

Some of the horses entered have notable records; others are virtually unknown to many fans. But they all hope to garner a share of the $3 million purse, with $1.86 million going to the winner.

RELATED Good vibes at Churchill Downs as Kentucky Derby 147 nears

While last-minute scratches are not unusual, only one horse was scratched from the final field in the days leading up to the big race. Trainer Kenny McPeek said Friday that King Fury, who had been assigned the No. 16 post, will not run after developing a fever in the afternoon.

"King Fury spiked a 104-degree fever this afternoon after he galloped this morning," McPeek said. "I feel gutted for all of the people that worked to get him ready for this race," McPeek said. "We'll regroup and point to another race."

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The normal temperature for a horse is between 99 degrees F and 105.5 degrees F while at rest.

King Fury, named after world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury, had been listed at 20-1 odds to win. The boxer had planned to walk him out onto the 1 1/4-mile track for the race.

Meanwhile, the race favorite, Essential Quality, at 2-1, has generated controversy among activists because of his owner -- Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is the focus of an international human rights scandal.

RELATED High drama as Essential Quality is installed as Kentucky Derby favorite

What the activists want to know is what his role might have been in the disappearance of one of his daughters, Sheikha Latify bint Mohammed al-Maktoum. Videos have surfaced in recent years showing she allegedly was imprisoned in a Dubai palace and fearing for her life.

On Wednesday, human rights lawyers and University of Louisville students filed a formal complaint with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, asking that the sheikh and his horse be barred from the Derby.

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The lawyers insisted that the commission "end his involvement in Kentucky horse racing, at least until Princess Latifa is free of captivity."

The commission on Thursday rejected the request, saying it "has determined the complaint does not articulate a violation of KHRC regulations."

Post time for the Kentucky Derby is 6:57 p.m. EDT. The race, and all the festivities, will be aired on NBC starting at 2:30 p.m. Coverage also is available to stream live on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.

Highlights of the 2021 Kentucky Derby

Jockey John Velazquez (L) and trainer Bob Baffert celebrate after their horse, Medina Spirit, won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

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