Churchill Downs on Friday abandoned its plan to hold the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby before a limited number of fans, saying it would run without live spectators because of a significant increase in coronavirus cases in and around Louisville.
In a statement, the company said that its plan to hold America’s most famous horse race before a scaled down crowd of more than 20,000 people was no longer feasible. Churchill Downs announced in the spring that it would move the Derby from its usual first Saturday in May spot on the calendar to Sept. 5, in hopes of hosting a live crowd.
“We were confident in that plan, but dedicated to remaining flexible using the best and most reliable information available,” the statement said. “With the current significant increases in Covid-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning. We have made the difficult decision to hold this year’s Kentucky Derby on September 5 without fans.”
Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky acknowledged the spread of the virus in his state and agreed that it was the best decision.
“The virus is still aggressively spreading in Kentucky, and the White House has announced that Jefferson County and the City of Louisville are in a ‘red zone’ based on increases in cases. This week alone the county had more than 2,300 new cases,” Beshear said. “I applaud Churchill Downs for continuing to monitor the virus and for making the right and responsible decision. I am asking all Kentuckians to take action to stop the spread of the virus so we can get back to the many traditions we enjoy, like the Kentucky Derby.”