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Kentucky Derby will run Sept. 5 with fans 'frequently encouraged' to wear masks

The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby will be Sept. 5 with spectators in attendance, Churchill Downs Racetrack and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday.

Spectators will be allowed under strict guidelines throughout Kentucky Derby Week, which runs Sept. 1-5. The Longines Kentucky Oaks will run Friday, Sept. 4.

Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery said in part:

“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. 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.”

Churchill Downs will allow fans when the rescheduled Kentucky Derby runs in September. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, file)

The venue capacity at Churchill Downs will be limited and access throughout the facility, including the barn area access, will also be limited. The number of credentialed employees, media and guests will be reduced. The arena will change operations to limit person-to-person touchpoints and adjust team-member protocols to keep racing groups safe.

There will be a revised Fan Code of Conduct with “expectations” for guests.

Via the release:

  • Guests will be consistently and frequently encouraged to wear a mask at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue. This includes when:

    • Riding on a shuttle

    • Traveling through the venue

    • Going to the restroom

    • Placing an in-person wager

    • Purchasing food or beverages from a concession stand

  • Guests will be asked to wash their hands for 20 seconds or sanitize them frequently.

  • Guests will be encouraged to socially distance themselves from others when possible.

The derby was among the events postponed in mid-March from its May 2 date as the nation began to shut down in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. It has been run every year since 1875 and has been postponed only once, in 1945 during a brief ban on horse racing during World War II. The derby was run in June that year.

Churchill Downs held a simulated race on the first Saturday in May, the day the event is usually held, and Secretariat beat out 12 fellow Triple Crown winners. It was set up as a fundraiser.

Rather than the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes opened the Triple Crown schedule this year. Tiz The Law, jockeyed by Manuel Franco, won the 152nd running of the race last weekend. The final leg will be the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3, pushed back from its May 16 date.

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