Kentucky’s Churchill Downs has received state approval to reopen its stables on May 11, after which spectator-free racing will be allowed, albeit under strict guidelines to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
The iconic home of the Kentucky Derby ‒ which this year has been moved from May 2 to September 5 due to the current situation ‒ said details of the opening day of its 2020 Spring Meet without spectators will be announced in the coming days.
Often dubbed “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports”, the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes, and then the Belmont Stakes.
Unlike the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, which took brief hiatuses in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the spectacle of the Kentucky Derby has been held uninterrupted since 1875.
Kentucky Governor, Andy Beshear, said in a news release issued by Churchill Downs: “There will be no fans for racing.”
“I will tell you this is one of the most detailed plans that we have seen about specific security checks that everybody has to go through, and be temperature-checked to masking, to having a very limited group that is there.”
The stable areas at Churchill Downs have been closed as usual since December 31 for annual winter renovations, but were originally scheduled to reopen on March 17.
The venue’s Spring Meet was due to commence on April 25, but obviously had to be postponed, and the racetrack has said that when racing returns it will be staged at a minimum of four days per week, Thursday through Sunday.
Churchill Downs also confirmed that until government officials approve large gatherings, allowing fans to return to the track, racing during its Spring Meet will be conducted spectator-free.
In the meantime, the only people who will be permitted on the property will be authorized racetrack employees, and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission license holders who are providing support for a horse stabled at the facility.
“The health and safety of our horsemen, staff and community remains paramount,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President, Kevin Flanery.
“Strict compliance with our comprehensive COVID-19 Action Plan and social distancing guidelines is our responsible duty to effectively contain the virus.”
Churchill Downs officially opened in 1875, the year of the first Kentucky Derby, and was named for Samuel Churchill, whose family was prominent in the state for many years.