Kentucky Derby 2021: Churchill Downs Hosts Biggest Crowd for U.S. Sporting Event Since Early 2020

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images for Churchill Downs)

Avid racegoers from all over the world have been filing into the famed Churchill Downs track in Louisville to watch the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

This year officially marks the 147th annual Kentucky Derby — otherwise known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” And not only that but today also returned a feeling of normalcy to one of the most historic events in our nation.

Just last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Kentucky Derby to be postponed. While it has always been held on the first Saturday in May, in 2020 it was forced to move back to September 5. It was the first time the race had been postponed since 1945.

However, fans made their way back to the famous race track on Saturday. And although Churchill Downs won’t be operating at 100-percent full capacity, they were expecting a large crowd. And a large crowd is precisely what they got. According to the Churchill Downs public relations team, the attendance at the Kentucky Derby today is 51,838.

“Today’s attendance for @KentuckyDerby 147 @ChurchillDowns is 51,383,” the Derby Media Twitter account posted.

Nonetheless, safety is still of upmost importance at the event. An official statement on the Kentucky Derby website explains as much.

“The health and safety of our entire community, including our team, and our fans, is always our primary concern,” the statement reads. “We remain focused on following sound and proven health and safety protocols while working toward the best experience possible for our guests.”

The 51,838 people attending today’s event are the largest announced attendance for a sporting event in the United States since last March.

Big Stars Make Their Way to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby

This year was still a little different than most. There were not the usual celebrity events to kick things off at the Derby. We have started to return to normal in 2021, however, we aren’t all the way there just yet. But that didn’t stop some of the world’s celebrities from making an appearance in Louisville on Saturday.

Two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks were present at Churchill Downs prior to the big race. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady made his way into the track looking like a mafia boss. Moreover, Green Bay Packers quarterback and former Jeopardy! guest host Aaron Rodgers was also in attendance with his fiancee Shailene Woodley.

Meanwhile, Medina Spirit won the race with the sixth-best odds at 12-1. Trainer Bob Baffert made history with his upset victory on the track. He now stands alone with seven Kentucky Derby wins in his career.