For the first time ever, America’s biggest horseracing event will take place behind closed doors.
The 2020 Kentucky Derby is set to take place behind closed doors without a fan presence for the first time in its almost 150 year history, next month.
The Kentucky Derby usually attracts a crowd of 150,000 people and last year a record $165.5m was wagered on the event.
Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), organiser of the event, said it initially planned to allow a limited crowd to attend the 146th Kentucky Derby but has made the decision to hold it behind closed doors. CDI had already rescheduled the event from May due to health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Why will the Kentucky Derby take place behind closed doors?
The decision to hold the 146th Kentucky Derby behind closed doors was made following a “significant increase” in coronavirus cases in Louisville and across the region.
In its announcement, CDI said the decision was made with the support of Governor Andy Beshear, who said: “The virus is still aggressively spreading in Kentucky, and the White House has announced that Jefferson County and the City of Louisville are in a ‘red zone’ based on increases in cases. This week alone the county had more than 2,300 new cases.
“I applaud Churchill Downs for continuing to monitor the virus and for making the right and responsible decision. I am asking all Kentuckians to take action to stop the spread of the virus so we can get back to the many traditions we enjoy, like the Kentucky Derby.”
CDI said that since early May, it has been consulting with public health authorities including data provided by medical experts at Norton Healthcare. In its statement, CDI said that “positivity rates in the more than 70,000 patients tested at Norton have gone from as low as 2% in June to a rapid escalation of 10% in recent days.”
Russell F. Cox, president and CEO of Norton Healthcare said: “This remains a very fluid situation and every event should be evaluated based on the data available as close to the date of the event as possible. We appreciate and support Churchill Downs’ decision.”
Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI, said: “This year’s Kentucky Derby was never going to be the celebration we’re used to, but I could not be more grateful to our tremendous team members and community partners for all of their efforts. We’ve left no stones unturned and reached the right decision.
“We hope our fans, the Louisville community and our country find an opportunity over the coming weeks to reflect on the challenges we have faced this year as a community and as a nation, and work together toward a better and safer future.”
What will happen now?
The decision to hold the event behind closed doors will also cover the Kentucky Oaks event, which will take place on 4 September and all live racing events at Churchill Downs Racetrack for the week of 1 – 5 September.
As a result of the decision to hold events behind close doors, only essential staff and participants will be allowed to be present at the venue.
In addition to this, ticket holders for all Derby week race dates and related programming, including Dawn at the Downs, will automatically be issued a refund.