FRANKFORT, Ky. — For Kentucky governors, it’s a coveted perk — presenting the trophy to the Kentucky Derby winner as a huge national television audience watches. But Gov. Andy Beshear says he won’t be in the winner’s circle Saturday with the triumphant owners at Churchill Downs.
Instead, the Democratic governor said Tuesday that he’ll watch the race from home, just like all the race fans who won’t be able to cram into the Louisville track because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it’s important, in every instance that I can, to make sure that I don’t put myself as governor ahead of the people of Kentucky,” Beshear told reporters. “So if we’re asking the people of Kentucky to watch it at home, I’m going to watch it at home, too.”
It’s another tradition falling by the wayside because of the pandemic. This year’s race was moved from May to September because of the coronavirus, and this will be the first time spectators won’t be allowed to attend.
This would have been Beshear’s first Derby trophy presentation as governor, though he watched his father, Steve Beshear, do the honors during two terms as Kentucky’s governor. Andy Beshear was elected last year, ousting incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
Besides basking in the national TV spotlight for the trophy presentation, the Derby also offers governors a chance to showcase the Bluegrass State. Governors have long used Derby festivities as a business and tourism recruitment tool. Guest lists can include CEOs and other top business executives.
Andy Beshear said he will give a taped video message as part of the trophy presentation Saturday. He’ll have to tape the congratulatory message without knowing which horse won.