2020 Kentucky Derby Postponed Until Sept. 5 Because of Coronavirus Outbreak

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2020

Flavien Prat on Country House, left, races against Luis Saez on Maximum Security, third from left, during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House won the race. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

The country's most famous horse race is the latest sports event to be impacted by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO Bill Carstanjen announced the 2020 Kentucky Derby—which was originally scheduled for May 2—has been postponed to Sept. 5:

"Throughout the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first priority has been how to best protect the safety and health of our guests, team members and community. As the situation evolved, we steadily made all necessary operational adjustments to provide the safest experience and environment. The most recent developments have led us to make some very difficult, but we believe, necessary decisions and our hearts are with those who have been or continue to be affected by this pandemic.

"Our team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever and certainly the most unique in any of our lifetimes. While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, our Company’s true legacy is one of resilience, the embracing of change and unshakeable resolve."

The 2020 Longines Kentucky Oaks has also been pushed back until Sept. 4.

Jason Frakes of the Louisville Courier Journal reported on March 16 that Churchill Downs was "likely" going to postpone the race from May 2 to Sept. 5.

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This year's race is set to be the 146th edition of the annual event that serves as the defining competition on the sport's calendar and sets the stage for a Triple Crown pursuit as the first of three legs alongside the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

It is just the latest marquee sports event to react to the coronavirus, as the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments were both canceled and the NBA, MLS and NHL seasons were all suspended, among other developments.

This decision comes after Grace Schneider of the Louisville Courier Journal reported on March 12 that Churchill Downs planned on waiting until closer to race day to choose whether it would postpone the event or hold it without fans.

The track said at the time preparations "are still moving forward. With the event still seven weeks away, a decision will be made closer to that date."

Schneider and Alfred Miller noted the Kentucky Derby has been postponed just once in 145 years—in 1945 when the United States government suspended horse racing during World War II. That year's race eventually happened June 9.

In terms of the actual racing, last year's Kentucky Derby was among the most memorable in recent history.

Country House was awarded the win when Maximum Security was disqualified for blocking the paths of other horses by changing lanes without clearance.