Kentucky Derby weather updates: How rain could impact race at Churchill Downs

The Kentucky Derby is a timeless American tradition, annually drawing a massive crows of spectators for a two-minute race. Anyone attending the 150th edition of the race might have to deal with some less than ideal weather.

Mother Nature always has a say in the track conditions at Churchill Downs, and that was never more true than in 2018, when more than three inches of rain fell leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The weather created a profusely muddy track and affected the complexion of the race.

Rain fell overnight before the 149th Kentucky Derby a year ago, but it tapered off early enough that the race itself wasn’t impacted too dramatically beyond a muddier track than some might have wanted. This year’s race might not be so lucky, depending on how the forecast trends.

Here are the latest weather updates for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

MORE: List of celebrities attending 2024 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby weather updates

Friday, May 3

There is a 40 percent chance of rain at Churchill Downs throughout the day Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Both showers and thunderstorms are possible, and the temperature is expected to hover near 79 degrees.

Friday night also has a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms, with showers and thunderstorms “likely” at Churchill Downs during the day Friday. That’s notable because the track conditions can deteriorate ahead of the race, particularly with a handful of races taking place in the leadup to the Kentucky Derby at the end of the day. 

Rain dissipated as race day went on last year, but wet conditions early in the day impacted the track during the Kentucky Derby because of how many races took place leading up to post time. 

The Weather Channel’s forecast also paints a decent picture for the region, with only a 33 percent chance of rain near the post time of 6:57 p.m. ET. 

Even if some light rain fells just before or during the race, the forecast doesn’t appear severe enough to change the complexion of the race. When a record amount of rain fell in 2018, there wasn’t much anyone could do to preserve the track. Any rain that falls between Friday and Saturday seems much more manageable, as it was last year, and doesn’t figure to impact the race a great deal. 

Still, even the slight threat of a thunderstorm is worth monitoring. A storm that passes through at the perfect (or not-so-perfect) time could quickly change how the race plays out. 

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