Watching the early Kentucky Derby Day on NBCSN it was almost shocking to see how small 45,000 looks like in such a massive facility as Churchill Downs.
Of course that is much better than a year ago when covid-19 was beginning to rage and the Derby was moved from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September and no one was allowed on the grounds unless they were connected to a horse running that day.
Still, this has been an event that set an attendance record of 165,307 in 2012 and then again when American Pharoah won the Derby in 2015 with 170,513.
This is in a venue that would be comfortable at about 120,000 but few if any who attended complained.
Despite how commercialized Kentucky Oaks and Derby days have become, it is still a great weekend of thoroughbred racing.
The weather for this weekend couldn’t have been better.
In the years when I covered it every type of weather but snow and ice was experienced.
There were rainy days, cold days and days unseasonably hot.
All of them special, special enough that Robert Yates, our former thoroughbred writer, and your trusty correspondent would show up at 7 a.m. and within three hours were prisoners as all traffic was into the track and none out until after the Derby.
Usually our day ended after 10 p.m. because as spectcular as the day was, it takes a long time for more than 100,000 to leave the track.
Still, watching yesterday and seeing fans on hand means the Derby and the Triple Crown are back on a normal schedule and we are getting closer to normalacy every time someone gets vaccinated against covid-19.