Can The Kentucky Derby Be Rained Out? The Skies Opened Up Shortly Before The 2016 Race
On Saturday, torrential rain fell over Churchill Downs shortly before the running of the 142nd Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, causing concern over whether or not the Kentucky Derby could be rained out. The rain caused crowds in the grandstand and the infield to run for cover, but a postponement of the main event ultimately seemed unlikely. As it turns out, the Derby is known for its all-weather tradition.
The rain began about an hour and a half before the Derby's start time, just as Lady Antebellum sang the National Anthem. The sun came back out just moments later, but the rain left the crowds temporarily thinned and the track noticeably muddied. In fact, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic took place as scheduled shortly after the National Anthem. The Turf Classic traditionally takes place just before the Kentucky Derby on the grass track at Churchill Downs.
Had the rain continued, the Derby likely would not have been impacted. Teams prepare for inclement weather, as it's actually more common on Derby day than you might think. According to the National Weather Service, 46 percent of Derby days see rain at some point in the day — and postponements are highly unlikely.
In fact, not a single Kentucky Derby has been postponed because of rain — and that's not for a lack of gray skies. In 2014, a Churchill Downs official told CNN that a postponement could occur in the case of "lightning or a washout of the track," but even multiple inches of rain haven't caused such a schedule change. At the same time, CNN reported that in 1918, more than two inches of rain fell on the track on the day of Kentucky Derby, but it was still run as scheduled.
On Saturday, rain had been forecasted for Louisville. The Weather Channel predicted that thunderstorms could start shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern time and could last until at least 9 p.m. Meanwhile, the Derby was scheduled to begin promptly at 6:34 p.m.
When it does take place in bad weather, jockeys and horses don't have to brave the rain for very long thanks to the Kentucky Derby's short timespan. The race is known as the "greatest two minutes in sports" because it often takes just two minutes for the horses to complete the mile-and-a-quarter loop. The brief race culminates a long and lively day of events, including smaller races and plenty of celebrity sightings.