What if they ran the Kentucky Derby and nobody came? Churchill cuts off ticket sales.

Janet Patton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Horse Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Churchill Downs is still hosting the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 and even planning for fans, but it is becoming clear that the Louisville track won't see anything close to even reduced attendance projections.

On Thursday, Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a conference call that as the coronavirus spiked in Kentucky the racetrack cut off general admission ticket sales.

"We are not selling any GA tickets right now," Carstanjen told stock analysts. "We had sold a bunch. But we have stopped selling GA. We are well under the capacity we had discussed with the governor but we've stopped anyway ... because we want to ensure that customers feel safe."

In June, Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery said that the track had received approval from Gov. Andy Beshear's office to run the race with reduced capacity.

Normally the Run for the Roses, the most famous horse race in the U.S., draws about 150,000 spectators, including about 90,000 in general admission with no ticketed seat.

In June, the track said it planned to reduce general admission by more than 60% and reduce reserved seats by 50%, or below 36,000 for general admission and less than 30,000 for reserved seating.


Flanery had said that fans without seats would not be allowed in the grandstand area; normally the area around the saddling paddock, under the grandstand and between the Kentucky Derby Museum and the entry gates is packed.

Fans will be allowed into the infield, he said.

Carstanjen did not give a figure for how many tickets had been sold before the cutoff.

"It's a possibility that we will restore (general admission ticket sales) but we've turned it off," he said.


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