2020 Kentucky Derby to Be Held with Fans amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2020

Horses break from the starting gate at Churchill Downs Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Churchill Downs Racetrack announced Thursday it will allow fans in attendance for the 2020 Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 under "strict guidelines" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Track president Kevin Flanery released a statement about the decision:

"Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can."

Churchill Downs updated its Fan Code of Conduct to reflect the COVID-19 situation. It states fans will be "consistently and frequently encouraged" to wear a protective face covering while attending the Derby, but stopped short of saying a mask would be mandatory to attend.

Spectators will also be asked to follow standard social distancing guidelines and wash or sanitize their hands frequently while at the track.

The statement said some of the steps that will be taken will include "venue capacity reductions to limit overall crowd density, including general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining and suites. More information on ticketing and seating areas will be released in the coming days and also will be sent directly to ticket holders."

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In addition, the track is going to attempt limiting person-to-person interactions for betting, concession purchases and other instances when social distancing wouldn't be possible. Its normal capacity is approximately 60,000.

"The impact of the Kentucky Derby extends well beyond the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs," Flanery said. "It is an incredibly important time for the City of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky both culturally, economically and with respect to our time-honored traditions."

This year's Derby was shifted from May 2 to Sept. 5 because of the pandemic. It's part of a revamped Triple Crown schedule in which the Belmont Stakes, traditionally the final race, took place last Saturday and the Preakness Stakes is set to finish the slate Oct. 3.

Tiz the Law, the 6-5 morning-line favorite, won the Belmont in dominant fashion and should arrive at Churchill Downs as a heavy favorite to triumph in the Run for the Roses.

The Kentucky Derby could became the first major U.S. sporting event with fans since the pandemic halted the sports world in mid-March.

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