The Run for the Roses will go on: Kentucky Derby postponed to September

Janet Patton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Horse Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Churchill Downs confirmed Tuesday that the Kentucky Derby will be postponed until September because of concerns about the coronavirus. The Louisville racetrack will hold the premier race for three-year-olds on Sept. 5, officials said.

The iconic Thoroughbred race, which is one of the oldest continuously held sporting events in the nation and the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, has traditionally been run on the first Saturday in May.

The news came a day after Keeneland announced it also would cancel its entire spring meet rather than race without fans.

Keeneland cited new guidance from the CDC issued on Sunday concerning the coronavirus. It warned against holding large events and mass gatherings that include "conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings and other types of assemblies." The CDC recommended that events attended by 50 people or more should be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks.

The U.S. task force on COVID-19 announced Monday that it was recommending that gatherings be restricted to no more than 10 people.

The Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, draws more than 150,000 fans. Over the week leading up to the event, including Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday, the Louisville track draws more than 350,000 -- good weather and bad.


Attempting to the hold the race without fans in the stands, as at least two racetracks did over the weekend, apparently would not be a viable option: On-track betting and revenue from premium seating are significant parts of Churchill Downs' revenue for the event.

The Kentucky Derby has run consecutively every year since 1875. The last time the Kentucky Derby was not held in May was in 1945, during World War II, when it was held on June 9. A ban on horse racing to help the war effort was instituted on Jan. 3, 1945. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. The 71st running of the Derby was held a month later.

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