How the 2020 ‘Delayed Derby’ will look in a pandemic world

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:10 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - With the Indianapolis 500 announcing it won’t have fans in the stands, the Kentucky Derby could now be the nation’s biggest sporting event with spectators since the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the current plan is for fans to be at the delayed derby, those fans will find a much different experience at Churchill Downs than at previous derbies.

“But I think if it were today, we’d want to see some changes, and I think Churchill Downs would too,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “What we do want to see is where we are a week from now, but do I believe if done right, there could be some fans, then yes. I do think there can be some. And the level will really depend on where we are with the virus, and then the plan, I mean it’s a huge complex, to spread them out.”

Through an open records request, WKYT received a copy of Churchill Downs’ COVID-19 plan for racing with fans submitted to the governor’s office in June.

The crowds will be trimmed down compared to previous years. Churchill Downs’ proposal called for general admission crowds to be reduced up to 61 percent, outdoor reserved seating area access reduced by 57 percent, and some dining area access reduced up to 33 percent. General admission tickets will be limited to a specified number and only grant access to the infield. No general admission will be allowed in the “front side” or paddock areas of the facility.

The track planned for all ticketing to be delivered digitally to limit contact between employees and guests. To promote social distancing, every other turnstile will be open as guests enter.

Barn area access will be restricted to essential personnel. Guests and parties in the barn area for morning workouts and during race days will be eliminated.

While guests will be encourages to wager through Churchill’s online wagering platform, those who want to bet in person will extra precautions at windows for live mutuel tellers.

Eating and drinking at the delayed derby will also be different. Like everywhere else now, guests will find with socially-distanced queues and workers wearing gloves and other PPE. Even in premium areas, people will find more individually pre-set meals and pre-packaged snacks and disposable cutlery wrapped in a napkin.

While a smaller crowd would normally make the lines shorter for restrooms, that might be the case with tighter capacity limits and social distancing requirements.

Before the state’s mandatory mask mandate, Churchill Downs said 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 and purchasing food or beverages from a concession stand.

The 146th Kentucky Oaks is slated to run September 4 and the Kentucky Derby is scheduled to run September 5.

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