On the date that is annually reserved for the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports," the first Saturday in May, 1.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the 13 Triple Crown winners battle it out in "The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown" created by Inspired Entertainment, the company announced Tuesday.
In a virtual race for the ages, Secretariat emerged as the ultimate champion, winning the race 47 years after winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
"The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown" was part of Churchill Downs' nationwide "Kentucky Derby at Home" party, and was televised at the culmination of NBC's broadcast which included a look back at American Pharoah's 2015 Derby win.
The day of programming celebrated the traditional date of the Kentucky Derby since the 146th running has been postponed until September 5th this year due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. The virtual race allowed viewers to experience the magic of the Derby using graphics and animation and featured a re-creation of the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs and the traditional atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
"This was a great event for everyone involved — Churchill Downs got to celebrate on their traditional Derby day, racing fans got to see the greatest-of-all-time face off, we had the opportunity to showcase the realism of our Virtual Horse Racing product, and it was all for a good cause," said Brooks Pierce, President and Chief Operating Officer of Inspired. "Virtual Sports have been popular in Europe for years, but putting together The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown for a national television broadcast was a great marketing opportunity for our Virtual Sports in the U.S. In addition to the extensive viewership, social media was abuzz for Kentucky Derby at Home, with 91% positive sentiment before and after the race. This is a great example of how Virtual Sports can plug the gap and bring people together for some relief during these difficult times, just as real sports do."
"While we await Kentucky Derby 146 in September, our partnership with Inspired Entertainment in creating the virtual Derby not only allowed fans celebrating Kentucky Derby at Home a chance to experience the thrill of a race at Churchill Downs together," said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated, "but the excitement leading up to it gave us a platform to raise and match funds for important COVID-19 relief efforts."