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Kentucky Derby returns along with the fanfare

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The Kentucky Derby is back in May with fancy hats and mint juleps.

The 147th running of the event will start Saturday evening and come less than eight months after it went off without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be the shortest time between derbies in the event’s history.

“I was hoping to enjoy my Derby win a little longer,” said Bob Baffert, whose horse Authentic won last year’s Derby.

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Churchill Downs will not be at full capacity this weekend. There will be a maximum of 48,000 spectators in the stands when the race begins

“The health and safety of our entire community, including our team and our fans, is always our primary concern and we remain focused on following sound and proven health and safety protocols while working toward the best experience possible for our guests,” the Kentucky Derby said on its website.

A women watches a race before the 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, Friday, April 30, 2021, in Louisville, Ky.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

A women watches a race before the 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, Friday, April 30, 2021, in Louisville, Ky.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

While fans are watching in Kentucky or from couches at home, they will be treated to a competitive race with horse Essential Quality as the favorite.

KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITE OVERSHADOWED BY SHEIKH’S CONTROVERSY

Essential Quality, whose jockey is Luis Saez, is the 2-1 favorite entering the race. He has yet to lose in the five races he has competed in his career. The last unbeaten colt o win the Derby was Justify in 2018 and that horse went on to win the Triple Crown (picking up wins at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes).

Saez will be looking for another Derby win. He was a part of some controversy in 2019 when Maximum Security crossed the finish line first only to have the victory stripped from him.

FILE - Jockey Luis Saez rides Essential Quality to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile horse race at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., in this Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, file photo. Essential Quality is expected to be the first gray horse favored to win the Kentucky Derby in 25 years. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

FILE – Jockey Luis Saez rides Essential Quality to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile horse race at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., in this Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, file photo. Essential Quality is expected to be the first gray horse favored to win the Kentucky Derby in 25 years. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

Some controversy comes with Essential Quality as well. The horse is owned and bred by Godolphin Racing – the stable of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum – the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai. The sheikh stands accused of abducting his daughters. Human rights groups were denied a request to have the sheikh banned from races indefinitely earlier this week.

The expected post time is 6:57 p.m. ET.

Here’s the post-position draw and odds ahead of the race.

1. Known Agenda (6-1)

2. Like the King (50-1)

3. Brooklyn Strong (50-1)

4. Keep Me in Mind (50-1)

5. Sainthood (50-1)

6. O Besos (20-1)

7. Mandaloun (15-1)

8. Medina Spirit (15-1)

9. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)

10. Midnight Bourbon (20-1)

11. Dynamic One (20-1)

12. Helium (50-1)

13. Hidden Stash (50-1)

14. Essential Quality (2-1)

15. Rock Your World (5-1)

16. King Fury (Scratched)

17. Highly Motivated (10-1)

18. Superstock (30-1)

19. Soup and Sandwich (30-1)

20. Bourbonic (30-1)

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The expected purse for this year’s event is $3 million. The event can be watched on NBC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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