America’s biggest horseracing event, the Kentucky Derby, will take behind closed doors for the first time in its almost 150-year history at the start of next month.
The Churchill Downs race — which usually welcomes a crowd of around 150,000 and last year attracted a record $165.5m in wagers — will be run without spectators on 5 September having already been rescheduled from May due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Organiser Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) said it had planned to allow a limited crowd at the 146th Kentucky Derby, but an increase in Covid-19 cases in Louisville and the wider Kentucky region led to it making the decision to bar fans due to the prioritisation of health concerns.
“Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that,” CDI said in a statement. “We deeply regret the disappointment this will bring to our loyal fans.”
CDI had planned to allow 23,000 fans to attend and a maximum of 40% occupancy of reserved seats in proposals unveiled earlier this month.