Secretariat early favorite to win virtual Derby

Horse Racing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Secretariat is the early 7-2 favorite for this weekend’s virtual Kentucky Derby, an animated race between all 13 Triple Crown winners on the day the Derby would have been held before the coronavirus pandemic postponed it.

The virtual Derby will use computer-generated imagery of the 13 horses running the 1 1/4-mile race at Churchill Downs. It will be shown as part of NBC’s three hours of coverage on Saturday.

Secretariat got the No. 3 post position in a random draw. He was a two-time Horse of the Year and swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, winning the last race by a record 31 lengths, in 1973.

“I’ve got to give Secretariat the edge,” oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said.

Citation, who won the 1948 Triple Crown, was made the 4-1 second choice. Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the 1977 and ’78 Triple Crown winners, respectively, were each listed at 5-1 odds.

“I didn’t have the heart to hang more than 20-1 odds on a Triple Crown winner,” Battaglia said.

The field from the rail out (with Triple Crown-winning year, jockey and odds): Affirmed (1978, Steve Cauthen, 5-1); Assault (1946, Warren Mehrtens, 20-1); Secretariat (1973, Ron Turcotte, 7-2); Sir Barton (1919, Johnny Loftus, 20-1); Seattle Slew (1977, Jean Cruguet, 5-1); American Pharoah (2015, Victor Espinoza, 6-1); Gallant Fox (1930, Earl Sande, 20-1); Citation (1948, Eddie Arcaro, 4-1); War Admiral (1937, Charlie Kurtsinger, 8-1); Whirlaway (1941, Eddie Arcaro, 4-1); Count Fleet (1943, Johnny Longden, 6-1); Justify (2018, Mike Smith, 15-1); Omaha (1935, Willie Saunders, 20-1).

There is no wagering on the race, but beginning Thursday fans can choose their favorite horse to win. Anyone who selects the winning horse will be entered to win a VIP experience at the Derby, which is set to be run on Sept. 5. Fans can also donate to emergency relief efforts for the coronavirus pandemic.

To determine the probability of each horse winning, select officials from Churchill Downs analyzed the historical past performance of each Triple Crown winner and incorporated the opinions of horse racing experts who evaluated each contender’s achievements and put them into historical perspective.

That information, known as the fundamental probabilities, was fed into Inspire Entertainment’s computer models, which will determine the final result by using those probabilities along with random number generation.

The fundamental probabilities only determine the chances of each horse winning the race. Those with a higher probability value are not necessarily going to win — they just have a greater chance of doing so.

The morning-line odds are completely independent of the fundamental probabilities and Battaglia was not aware of them for each horse when setting the odds.

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