Like most other events, the Kentucky Derby was postponed due the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there is some precedent. Julep sponsor, Old Forester turned to an old solution for a new problem. This weekend, distiller will instead sponsor the Kentucky Turtle Derby, an event created when the 1945 Derby was postponed due to World War II.
On Saturday (5.01), right before the 7:05 post time, Churchill Downs official bugler, Steve Buttleman will sound the call to post. However, instead of equines, viewers will be treated to eight turtles competing in “the slowest eight minutes in sports.”
Turtles named Seattle Slow, Sir Hides A Lot, Galapago, Green Mamba, American Tortuga, Rocket to Nowhere, What the Turtleneck, and Steve will sludge it out for the tile.
Race fans who choose to tune into the live streamed event on Old Forester’s YouTube channel will be treated to a familiar voice.
“It won’t be quite the high-energy, nervousness that I have leading up to the Kentucky Derby that’s for sure,” Collmus told Forbes. “I’m going to do the prep work and call that turtle race as if my life depended on it. I’ll make sure I’m as accurate with the turtles as I am with the horses.”
In lieu of betting, spectators are encouraged to make a donation to the Hospitality Industry Emergency Relief Fund; Old Forester parent Brown-Forman will match all donations up to $100,000. (Of course, if one really wanted to bet on the
ponies turtles, we’re certain that they could find a site taking wagers pretty easily.)
The event is throwback to 1945 when the government suspended horse racing to ration resources for the war effort. Instead, 6500 people showed up to watch a full slate of turtle races. The original was also a benefit event, raising $11,483 for the Kentucky Society for Crippled Children. Turtle racing continued during Derby weekend continued into the mid-fifties.