A 'RAUCOUS' crowd of up to 50,000 will pack out the Kentucky Derby on Saturday – the biggest in the United States since Covid began.
Glamorous racegoers will file into famed Churchill Downs in Louisville to witness 'the most exciting two minutes in sports'.
Already on Friday around 40,000 were there to see Malathaat grind out an emotional Oaks victory for late owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who died last month.
The sun shone brightly for the real return of top class racing in the States.
And though the usual attendance figures will be slashed by around a third for the big day, these stunning photos show lucky punters are in for a day to remember.
Colourful dresses and some interesting headwear – which appeared to include a Barbie doll fascinator – were on show.
And punters did their best to match their outfits with their facemasks, which still must be worn to keep in with guidelines.
Racing bosses there have said they fully expect a 'raucous crowd' for the £2.2million contest.
But safety is paramount, with a statement on the Derby website reading: "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."
Even so, with around 50,000 expected, Derby day will 'comfortably' be the biggest single-day sporting event in terms of attendance since coronavirus hit the US, say Newsweek.
The biggest prior to Saturday's showpiece was when the Texas Rangers hosted just over 38,000 fans on April 5 for their baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
But as the drinks flow and the bets get placed, no one will be more nervous than mattress salesman Jim McIngvale.
'Mattress Mack' has pledged to stake up to £2.9million on favourite Essential Quality.
That will be the biggest bet in US horseracing history.
Another looking to make history will be Kendrick Carmouche, the first black jockey in the big race since 2013.
Carmouche, who rides Bourbonic, is bidding to become the first black jockey to win the Derby in more than 100 years.
Speaking of his shot at history, he said: "As a black rider getting to the Kentucky Derby, I hope it inspires a lot of people because my road wasn’t easy to get there and I never quit,
"What I’ve been wanting all my career is to inspire people and make people know that it’s not about colour.
"It’s about how successful you are in life and how far you can fight to get to that point."
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