Springtime brings out Kentucky Derby fever

Springtime brings out Kentucky Derby fever
Photo: Kevin Kerstein

For many horse-racing fans and Louisville residents, nothing says spring like preparations at Churchill Downs to welcome back horses, their entourages and, in late April, fans for opening week and the Kentucky Derby.

The big news Sunday was that trainer Todd Pletcher's contenders were arriving at the track.

Here are more views of the goings-on from the Twitterverse.

April 8

April 5

The big news on Monday was the arrival of undefeated champ Essential Quality.

March 31

March 22

Kevin Kerstein, publicity manager for Churchill Downs, posted this video showing the changing of a sign to reflect Derby 2021.

Scott Eckhardt, videographer for WLKY-TV, posted a closer view:

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association also got in on the act, posting these photos from March 16, when Churchill Downs welcomed the first horses of the season.

And here's a look at a horse taking to the track, posted by the Kentucky Derby Museum.

And in case you were wondering about this year's official mint julep glass …

Tuesday, March 16

It was 72 degrees and (kind of) sunny in Louisville Tuesday. But if you needed another sign that spring is around the corner, how about the arrival of the first horses at Churchill Downs?

Kevin Kerstein, the track's director of publicity, was as excited as any race fan, tweeting Tuesday morning:

He followed that up with a tease:

Finally, the reveal:

Trainer Norm Casse said he will have 20 horses at the historic track eventually but that he sent five on Tuesday.

"Those are the horses that aren't going to run back at the Fair Grounds, and I just felt like it would be best to get them out of there already and get them acclimated at Churchill," Casse said.

"To me, it's easier to stagger your exit and your arrival than doing it all at once. I have enough manpower to do that, so we're doing it that way."

The first van arrived just after 9 a.m. from New Orleans, Kerstein said in an email.

"A lot of horses annually start arriving after this weekend’s races at Fair Grounds, so I’d expect a number of horses to ship over the weekend and into early next week."

Training is scheduled to begin on Friday from 6 to 10 a.m. with one renovation break. On April 5, once more horses arrive, that schedule switches to 5:30 to 10 a.m. with two renovation breaks.

"We’re thrilled to welcome back all of the horses, their trainers and staff after the winter season," Kerstein said. "It’s a true sign that Derby is just around the corner once the backstretch opens."

Opening night for the Spring Meet is Saturday, April 24, and the Kentucky Derby is a week later, on May 1. The last day of the meet is June 26.

Casse could have been speaking for many when he said, "We're all excited to be back."

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