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Churchill Downs Says Derby, Oaks Will Happen With Spectators In September

The Kentucky Derby 2018 at Churchill Downs.
Photo by J. Tyler Franklin
The Kentucky Derby 2018 at Churchill Downs.

This story has been updated.

Churchill Downs Racetrack says it will move forward with the 146th runnings of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby with spectators in September.

The races, which historically happen during the first week of May, were delayed until September 4 and 5 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Churchill Downs said the events would happen as planned, with restrictions, after consultation with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and state public health officials.

“We know a lot of people have had a lot of hurt during this crisis and our hearts go out to them. We also know we have to take baby steps as a community to move forward to do something that to lifts the spirits of this town and the world,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said at a news conference at the track.

The track, which can seat more than 150,000, will limit the venue capacity to reduce the crowd density, and restrict general admission ticket holders to the infield.

Flanery would not say how many people will be allowed into the track, however.

“You know, I’m not worried about the number at this point, what I’m worried about is that we’ve got good protocols in place and we are talking with our guests,” Flanery said.

Guests will not be required to wear a mask, but will be "consistently and frequently encouraged" to do so, unless seated in their reserved seat. Washing hands and social distancing will be encouraged as well.

Flannery said the track received word from Gov. Beshear allowing the event to move forward, but with a number of new health protocols in place to limit the spread of the virus. Among them, mobile ticketing and betting and movement restrictions for guests.

“Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby," said Flanery said in a news release. "In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”

The news comes as dozens of states states around the country report growing cases of COVID-19 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 130,000 to 150,000 Americans will die by July 18th.

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