Kentucky Derby preview

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 10:41 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - There are just three days until the fastest two minutes in sports with the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby.

The week comes with a sense of pride for Kentuckians, as the Commonwealth has a time to shine.

One local sportscaster is preparing to show the world how special the day is for Kentucky.

“I found out not everybody in the state loves horse racing, but they watch the Kentucky Derby because it is different,” said sportscaster Kenny Rice. “It’s a bucket list for most people. You’re never going to see anything like this. You’re never going to see 160,000 people at a horse race.”

Rice has covered around 42 Kentucky Derbies, but each one is just as exciting as the year before.

“It’s fun to still see a lot of the people,” said Rice. “I mean, there’s people like Todd Pletcher still around. I remember a young Todd Pletcher coming up. I remember a young Brad Cox coming up. They’re the two stars of this year’s Derby.”

Rice believes there has been a resurgence in the popularity of horse racing, especially the unique pride in Kentucky. He thinks the pandemic might have had something to do with it.

“I think after everybody was so locked down, for so long, that they wanted to get back,” said Rice. “Think of this, MMA and horse racing were the two sports that went on during the whole COVID shutdown.”

Rice has seen it all, including the troubling side of the races when a horse is injured.

“It’s the toughest thing in the world to cover,” said Rice. “I mean it is the toughest thing.”

During 502 Day at Churchill Downs, a horse was euthanized after it fell during a race. The 3-year-old filly had to be euthanized on the track. Three races later, another horse collapsed and died.

“These horses are pets to the trainers, the people who are around them, to most of the owners,” said Rice.

PETA released a statement Tuesday calling for Churchill Downs to close and address safety protocols adding, “Horses should not be dying for human entertainment.”

“It’s a very fine line in there between the sport and what can happen,” said Rice. “You look at their legs and the spindly legs that they have. It’s amazing that a 1,100, 1,200-pound horse can run.

Still, Rice says he believes safety is heavily considered and a priority in the industry.

“Nobody can go on with a happy day at all, even if you’ve done well at the track, if someone else’s horse has been injured, or worse situation, had to be euthanized,” said Rice.

Millions will be tuned in at home to see the excitement that is the Kentucky Derby.