Rain could dampen Kentucky Derby race weekend

Jockey Javier Castellano and a horse named Mage won the 149th Kentucky Derby in 2023. Rain fell in Louisville on race day, but the last time the track was considered to be muddy was in 2019.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The running of the 150th Kentucky Derby is just hours away, and the FOX Forecast Center warns that Mother Nature could play a big role in this year’s race.

The race is scheduled to begin at 6:57 p.m. ET. on Saturday, and forecast models show plenty of showers and thunderstorms will be around the Blue Grass state.

The Kentucky Derby is known as a rain or shine event, but lightning can force delays of what is considered to be the greatest two minutes in sports.

"The rain creates tougher slippery conditions, which can cause tussling among the horses or possible bumps into the horses. So that’s something to look out for. And also, the wet mud being kicked back into jockey and the horses faces," Jeff Clark, a sports betting writer at Outkick, told FOX Weather.


A weakening frontal boundary is expected to be the focal point for the development of showers and thunderstorms, which will be possible at any time on Saturday.

Outside of rain showers, highs are expected to reach the lower 80s with plenty of humidity.

According to National Weather Service records, seeing rain on race day is not an uncommon occurrence, as precipitation has been around for nearly half of the derbies that have been held since 1875.

The rainiest Kentucky Derby happened in 2018 when 3.15" fell over the region.

Wes Peterson, a spokesperson for a Florida-based horse breeding company, previously told FOX Weather that cold temperatures and rainfall can lead to impacts on race day.

"Every horse is different and depends on a case-by-case scenario, but jockeys sometimes change horses’ hooves on Derby Day to accommodate the cold, rain, or muddy track," Peterson said.



An El Niño pattern has allowed an active storm track to impact the Ohio Valley during the late winter and spring, leading to several episodes of heavy precipitation.

Fortunately, Louisville is not in a heightened severe weather risk zone on Saturday, but that does not mean thunderstorms won’t be capable of producing dangerous lightning and heavy rainfall.