Horse racing fans, May 2020 simply won’t be the same. Churchill Downs has postponed the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
Both events will take place on consecutive days as normal, but not until Labor Day weekend. Other details are less settled right now, however.
What we know about the 2020 Kentucky Derby right now
Churchill Downs plans to run the Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5. The Oaks will happen the day before, Friday, Sept. 4.
This will be only the third time in the 145 years of the Derby that it won’t run in May. It’s also the first time since 1945 that it won’t happen on the first Saturday in May.
Churchill Downs says it chose Labor Day weekend for several reasons, including lack of competing events and access to accommodations. The concern over the pandemic coronavirus is among those issues.
“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.
While Churchill is determined to hold the event this year, questions remain about whether it will take place fully open to spectators. Much of that will depend on guidance from institutions like the Center for Disease Control.
They may limit the number of spectators based on such guidance, depending on the level of containment of the virus. Churchill Downs may not be the only place where that happens.
Belmont Stakes, Preakness, and other qualifiers
As the Derby is postponed, it’s likely that the other two legs of the Triple Crown will be as well. The Preakness may be running late in September with the Belmont early in Oct.
No official announcements exist about the dates of either event, however. The New York Racing Association issued a statement.
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.”
Churchill says that more announcements about new qualifying events are forthcoming. Existing points toward qualification will remain valid.
Churchill isn’t the only place in the country where racing is canceled or postponed. Keeneland has canceled the 2020 Spring Meet. Kentucky Downs has closed, as has Oak Lawn in Arkansas.
Right now a lot of the gambling action and sports world across the country is shut down and horse racing isn’t isolated from that. Although there is a new date for the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks right now, what may happen between now and then is anyone’s guess.