Kentucky Derby 2020 postponed to first Saturday in September due to coronavirus concerns

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The 2020 Kentucky Derby will be postponed to Saturday, September 5 due to ongoing precautions for the coronavirus outbreak, Churchill Downs Incorporated announced on Tuesday. The 146th Run for the Roses was initially scheduled for Saturday, May 2.

This will be the first time since 1945 that the Derby hasn’t been run on the first Saturday in May and the third time in history that the race hasn’t been run in the month of May.

“We believe that moving our iconic event to Labor Day Weekend this year will enable our country to have time to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said. “This will also provide our guests more time to reschedule their travel and hotel arrangements so they can attend.”

The Kentucky Oaks will be run on Friday, September 4 instead of Friday, May 1. These dates are contingent upon approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Churchill Downs Inc. said it expects to receive approval on Thursday.

That weekend was selected, in part, because of a lower number of sporting events taking place then and general availability of hotels in Louisville, Carstanjen added.

Churchill plans to replicate as much of the entire Derby week, both other races and events, as possible.

“The Kentucky derby is a participatory event,” Carstanjen said. “Its energy and its magic really comes from everybody participating and being there to enjoy it. So, we’re going to make it happen. This race has happened 145 years in a row, and it’s going to happen a 146th. We’ll roll with the punches, but we feel very, very good that September’s the right date.”

New Derby prep races will be added to the current calendar soon, and points already earned will still count towards Derby qualification.

“This will be fun and give the fans more time to learn about and evaluate this year’s crop of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds,” Carstanjen said.

The rest of the Triple Crown may also move, with the Preakness potentially sliding to later in September and the Belmont moving to early October. Both are still in talks.

The New York Racing Association released a statement after Churchill Downs Inc. made the Derby move official:

NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else. NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.

Back in 1945, the Kentucky Derby was postponed to June 9 due to World War II. After that, the entire Triple Crown schedule shifted, resulting in all three races being run in consecutive weeks. The 1901 Derby was run on Monday, April 29.

The Kentucky Derby Museum and on-track simulcast operations at Churchill Downs were shut down on Monday for at least the next two weeks.

As of March 16, several bigger and more prominent tracks including Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Fair Grounds plan to continue running races as scheduled, but are closed off to the public. Oaklawn’s casino has been closed for at least two weeks, but racing is set to continue in Arkansas.

The Keeneland Spring Meet, set for April 2-24, was canceled on Monday after it was initially set to run on schedule without spectators. The Blue Grass, a 100-point Kentucky Derby prep race, and the Lexington, a 20-point prep race, were slated to run during the spring meet on April 4 and 11, respectively. Keeneland’s 2020 April Two-Year-Olds in Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale on April 7, has been canceled.

Kentucky Downs, a turf-only track in Franklin, Ky., right by the Tennessee border, has temporarily closed down until at least March 30. Ellis Park, located in the western part of the state, will also voluntarily close all customer-facing operations. Turfway Park is the only track still running live racing in Kentucky, albeit behind closed doors.

Kentucky is not the only state where racing has taken a hiatus.

New Mexico’s Sunland Park has also completely shut down for three weeks, canceling the Sunland Derby, a 50-point Kentucky Derby prep race. Parx Racing in Pennsylvania is also closed indefinitely.

See U.S. tracks that are closed or racing spectator-free.

Across the pond, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) suspended all racing through the end of April on Tuesday. In Japan, races began running behind closed doors last month. On Monday, France Galop, the country’s racing governing body, suspended all horse racing until at least April 15. Races in Italy, Spain and Germany are also on hold.

The $12 million Dubai World Cup will run as scheduled on March 28 at Meydan Racecourse, but without spectators. “Only horse connections, racing officials, accredited media and sponsors will be permitted entry,” the Dubai Racing Club said in a statement.