The Kentucky Derby – America’s most famous horse race, which typically draws 150,000 spectators to the venerable Churchill Downs track – will be held this year with fans in the stands, officials said Thursday.
“The Rose Race”, normally contested on the first Saturday in May, had to be postponed to September 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery said Thursday that he had been in consultation with Kentucky Governor Andy. Beshear and state health officials over the decision to bring spectators back to the track that day.
“We are going to have Derby Week with fans,” Flanery told reporters at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s going to be a different experience. It’s a different year. “
Flanery did not give a specific number when asked how many fans would be allowed inside Churchill Downs that day, when the world’s best 3-year-old horses galloped 1 1/4 miles in a race called “The two most exciting minutes in sport”. ”
He would only say that there will be “reduced capacity throughout the facility.”
The race normally draws around 150,000 spectators – around 60,000 of them in permanent reserved seats, the rest in general admission.
Race officials hope to reduce general admission by more than 60% and reduce the number of reserved seats by up to 50%.
All 60,000 reserved seats have already been purchased, and the track hopes to get enough voluntary returns to reach its goal.
Let our news respond to your inbox. The news and stories that matter, delivered in the morning on weekdays.
“We are in the process of contacting each of these seat holders to discuss their interest in participating: do they still want the seats? Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers told NBC News on Thursday.
General admission holders on September 5 will be kept in the interior field of Churchill Downs. In normal years, a GA ticket could also have access to a large part of the first floor of the establishment.
The entire facility at Churchill Downs is 1.6 million square feet, and Flanery said he believed fans could safely attend. But he added that plans for September 5 are still being worked out.
“We will continue to be agile,” he said. “We will adapt to the facts as they are right now. But we have to make plans. “
Kentucky is among the states that have reached the World Health Organization’s recommended positivity rate of 5% or less to move forward. Kentucky’s seven-day key rate was 3.82% Thursday morning.
The state is also in the bottom half in terms of deaths and infections per capita.
The governor has declared that the runway plans are acceptable.
“Churchill Downs has submitted a comprehensive plan to the state government which guarantees that the Kentucky Derby will be very different this year, (but the changes) will help protect the health and safety of every Kentuckian, which is my number one priority. “He told the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Other changes fans will see at Churchill Downs that day, officials say, will include:
- The “chef’s table” buffets are eliminated and the points of sale of other food products will be distributed.
- All tickets will be mobile, to limit contact between fans and employees.
- The lines at the betting windows will have markers to keep fans away and internet access will be increased to make it easier for participants to place bets via mobile phones.
- All employees will wear masks and some will wear gloves, while fans will also be asked to cover their faces.
But Flanery stopped making masks mandatory for fans.
“We will encourage everyone to wear the mask,” he said. “We are going to work with people. We will encourage them to do so. We will gently remind people. “
The Kentucky Derby is usually the first of three races in the Triple Crown horse race, followed by the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
This year, the Belmont Stakes were organized first. Tiz the Law won last Saturday, in front of empty stands at Belmont Park in Queens, New York.
The Preakness at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore has been postponed to October 3.