Churchill Downs has recanted an earlier decision, and will no longer allow fans at the 146th Kentucky Derby, though the storied horse race will be run.
In an about-face, Churchill Downs announced on Friday that it is not allowing fans because of growing concerns about how to keep a crowd safe, even with social distancing rules in place, during the growing coronavirus pandemic.
“Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that,” the race track said in a statement. “We deeply regret the disappointment this will bring to our loyal fans.”
The decision to run the September 5th races without fans also applies to the Kentucky Oaks and all live racing at Churchill Downs during Derby Week.
Tickets for all races and related programming will be automatically refunded, the race track said in its announcement.
On August 12th, Churchill Downs released a 62-page operations plan that limited attendance for The Derby to fewer than 23,000 guests.
A crowd of 23,000 would have been about 14% of the record 170,513 that attended the Kentucky Derby in 2015. It would have been one of the largest crowds for a sporting event in the United States since sports began shutting down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kentucky Derby has been held every year since 1875 and has been staged on the first Saturday in May every year since 1946. The 1945 Derby was held on June 9 because of World War II.
Last year’s attendance was 150,729. The Kentucky Oaks record crowd of 124,589 was set in 2016, and last year’s Oaks attendance was 105,719.
All three Triple Crown races were rescheduled this year because of the pandemic.
TIZ THE LAW Won the Belmont Stakes on June 20th, two weeks after its originally scheduled date.
The Preakness was postponed from May 16th to October 3rd, making it the last leg of this year’s Triple Crown schedule.