Authentic wins the Kentucky Derby amidst coronavirus concerns, Breonna Taylor protests

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 5: Race fans, owners, wearing their finest and face masks on derby day at Churchill Downs Racetrack, on September 5, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Horsephotos/Getty Images)

Authentic won the 146th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

The race, usually in May, is four months late because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still no fans were allowed, so the fabled racetrack was mostly quiet. Multiple groups, including armed militias, held protests and counterprotests in the streets outside over police killings of unarmed Black Americans.

The Derby unfolded in the hometown of Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical technician shot dead in her home in March when police burst in to serve a search warrant in the middle of the night. Demonstrators here have been protesting downtown for more than 100 days, calling for the officers involved to be prosecuted and the policing system dismantled. 

As the first race started Saturday morning, a group of self-described "patriots" marched through downtown as a counterprotest, many carrying assault rifles and campaign flags for President Donald Trump. 

The Louisville Metro Police Department said it is anticipating large-scale demonstrations near the track.

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Wanda Martin lives across from the backside of Churchill Downs. Usually her lawn is a party, with food and music and dancing. Friends come from all over the county to visit. Martin grew up in the horse racing business. She worked for trainers, feeding and caring for the racehorses.

It is usually her favorite week of the year. She always sells T-shirts with sayings like "Talk Derby to me" and "Go Baby Go."

The only thing she could come up with to put on her shirts this year was "2020 Worst Derby Ever."

She hung them from a clothesline across the front of her lawn. 

"We've had some good times," she said. "This is just not Derby. I know it's for our protection, but it's not like Derby at all."

Martin said she isn't worried about the large-scale demonstrations planned for the neighborhood. 

A few hours before the race, the street was filled with police officers, who were responding to a domestic situation in a house adjacent to the racetrack, unrelated to the protests. A man barricaded himself in his house, and police briefly closed the gates as they tried to coax him out. 

Martin said it was just one more thing on a list of frustrations this year. 

She knows she's not the only one who feels that way. She's sold 15 of her shirts.

"It's true," she said. "Worst derby ever."