Churchill Downs to hold Kentucky Derby without spectators

24th August 2020 8:58 am GMT
Churchill Downs

This year’s Kentucky Derby will take place without spectators in attendance due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The 146th Kentucky Derby was originally scheduled for May but was postponed to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with organiser Churchill Downs working closely with health officials since then to conduct the derby with limited spectators in attendance.

However, the recent rise in the number of COVID cases in Kentucky has prompted Churchill Downs to now limit attendance to essential personnel only.

“Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that,” the company stated. “We deeply regret the disappointment this will bring to our loyal fans.”

The decision is supported by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who commented: “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.”

That view was echoed by Norton Healthcare chief executive Russell F. Cox, who described this moment as a critical point in time for the community. “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,” he said. “We appreciate and support Churchill Downs' decision.”

Churchill Downs chief executive Bill Carstanjen commented: “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.”

The 146th Kentucky Derby will take place on September 5 and will be broadcast live by NBC.

Shares in Churchill Downs Inc. (NSQ:CHDN) closed 0.59 per cent higher at $174.23 per share in New York Friday.

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