With Kentucky seeing a spike in new coronavirus cases, officials have stopped selling general admission tickets to the Kentucky Derby, at least temporarily. The Run for the Roses, typically the opening race of horse racing’s Triple Crown, is scheduled for September 5 at Churchill Downs.
“We’re still well under the capacity that we’ve discussed with [Gov. Andy Beshear],” Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen told reporters. “But we’ve stopped [selling GA tickets] anyway because we want to make sure first and foremost that when our customers come to the event, that they feel safe.”
Race officials announced in June that both the derby and Kentucky Oaks (ran the day before) will have fans in the stands when they run in September. The Belmont Stakes – traditionally the third and final race of the Triple Crown – ran with no attendance in June. Tiz the Law took the victory in that race. The Preakness, traditionally set for the middle of the two races, is scheduled for October 3 at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course.
Kentucky officials have announced an increasing number of coronavirus cases since the beginning of July, with the seven day average climbing from 212 on July 1 up to 605 as of Thursday afternoon. The state remains one of the less impacted by the pandemic thus far, with just 731 deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported and only nine states reporting fewer cases per 1,000 residents than the Bluegrass State.
Regardless, the suspension of ticket sales was deemed an appropriate response for the time being, with a potential for resumption as the event approaches should trends reverse.
“I think everybody wants to see us make improvements on where our numbers are,” Beshear said. “The very first threat to all of us, and that means the Derby too, was the escalation that we were seeing. I hope that we have stopped that. It’s going to take time and we can’t let up.”