For the first time in 75 years, Churchill Downs won’t be holding the Kentucky Derby this weekend. However, the race is still on for a new date of September 5 as the famed track prepares for its months ahead.
Churchill Downs is rearranging its schedule entirely, not just the Derby. The track was supposed to hold its spring meet on April 25 to usher in the season before being flooded with hat-wearing, mint julep-drinking spectators on May 2 to witness the first jewel of the Triple Crown. The spring meet is now rescheduled for May 16 without any fans in accordance with recommendations from health experts.
“We will adjust and respond to whatever the circumstances and will work tirelessly with state and local officials to develop any and all protocols and procedures to make our event a safe and respectable spectator event,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a Thursday teleconference, via Blood Horse. “The Derby has been held every year since 1875. Most years, it’s easy. This year we have to work hard with our state and local leaders to make it everything it can be, and we will do that.”
While any major sporting event currently scheduled will likely be without fans, Carstanjen said his hope is to bring fans back under the twin spires of Churchill Downs this Labor Day weekend for the Derby. Determining whether that may be possible relies on data regarding COVID-19 cases and downward trends.
“Recently, the data in this area has looked promising. Of course, the Derby is a national and international event, so there’s a lot of data to track,” he said. “But, generally, what the future looks like the next four months is going to be a reflection of the policies and procedures and protocols that have been put in place by the various states and localities, and the effectiveness of those policies. So far, we see a lot to be happy about. There have been a lot of good decisions that have been made by leaders, including those in this state.”
Although the springtime tradition won’t be officially underway this weekend, racing enthusiasts can still get in on the action through some creativity by organizers. A virtual Kentucky Derby will broadcast Saturday, May 2 on NBC at 5:45 p.m. featuring all 13 Triple Crown winners.