For the first time in 75 years, the Kentucky Derby has been postponed. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced the iconic horse race, which is annually held at Churchill Downs race track on the first Saturday in May, to move its date to the fall.
The Run For The Roses will now get underway September 5, officials revealed Tuesday.
“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,” Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement. “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.”
Prior to the official postponement, the Kentucky Derby issued a statement saying that the timing of the 2020 race was being reviewed at Churchill Downs, taking into consideration best practices from public health experts and those who travel to attend the event. Reports of the race’s postponement began surfacing after a new CDC guideline recommended restricting public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
2020 will mark only the third time in the Derby’s history that the race is not held in May. The first came in 1901 when it took place in late April. It was then postponed in 1945 due to World War II and eventually took place in June.
There is no word yet on status of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, the remaining two jewels in the triple crown. The Preakness Stakes is annually held at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, with the Belmont Stakes arriving at New York’s Belmont Park in early June.
The Kentucky Derby is the latest major sporting event to be altered due to COVID-19. Springtime sports staples like March Madness and the Masters golf tournament have also seen their traditions falter in the wake of the pandemic. The former was officially cancelled by the NCAA for the first time in its history, while the latter will now take place at Augusta National likely in the fall. Meanwhile, the NBA, NHL and MLS have suspended their current seasons, while the MLB has now delayed Opening Day to May in accordance with new CDC guidelines.
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