Kentucky Derby to (trot) with few fans


Kentucky Derby August 2020 Image: Alex Slitz

Churchill Downs Racetrack in Kentucky, US, has confirmed that attendance at this year’s Kentucky Derby on September 5th will be limited to less than 23,000 spectators.

The attendance has been capped at less than 14 per cent of the total capacity in 2015, when the event attracted a record crowd of 170,513. Safety measures in place due to COVID-19 – which is still ripping apart United States – translates into the fact that fewer than 23,000 spectators are expected for this year’s race.

Churchill Downs, located on Central Avenue in South Louisville, Kentucky, United States, is a thoroughbred racetrack most famous for annually hosting the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, almost always on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival.

Churchill Downs officials have released a 62-page health and safety operations plan that will limit the capacity. No general admission will be allowed and reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40 percent occupancy and the infield has been closed. Pre-purchased general admission tickets will be refunded.

Standing room only or ‘walk around’ tickets have been done away with. All outdoor ticket holders will be reseated in a new comparable location either just before the event starts or during the event to make room for maximum social distancing.

Masks have been made mandatory for fans upon entrance and within the 190-acre venue, while temperature checks and medical questionnaires will also be carried out. Each guest will also receive a ‘Healthy at the Track’ bag, which will comprise disposable mask, a pocket-sized hand sanitizer and a personal stylus for non-contact self-service betting.

The Kentucky Derby was initially supposed to take place on May 2nd but will now be held in September. It will mark the first time in 15 years that the race will not be run on the first Saturday in May.

Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery commented, “The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs in the first week of September is a privilege that our team does not take for granted.”

Flanery added, “Our extensive plan meets or exceeds all recommended State and local guidelines. We’ve received an exceptional level of support from regulators, medical experts and public health authorities and we’ll continue to carefully work with them to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our customers, employees and communities safe.”

“Reducing the size of the crowd is an important step to ensuring a safe environment. Medical best practices and protocols — many of which we have applied in consultation with experts both inside and outside the sports industry — will be implemented, and we’ll make adjustments all the way up to Derby Day as we find ways to improve and continue to adhere to ever-evolving best practices,” he continued.

A crowd of 23,000 would still be one of the largest crowds for a sporting event in the United States since sports began shutting down in March as coronavirus started to bleed the world and the US in a big way. A crowd of 30,000 fans was allowed at a NASCAR race on July 15 in Bristol, Tennessee (US).

The protocols will be in effect for all five days of the September 1st – 5th racing meet at Churchill Downs, including Kentucky Oaks Day on September 4th.

The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies (young female horse) staged annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The Kentucky Oaks is held on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby each year.

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