Kentucky Derby to Run Without Fans

  • The Kentucky Derby had already been moved from May 2 to September 5
  • Churchill Downs had planned on having a small crowd on hand
  • Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear applauded the decision
  • Tiz the Law is the overwhelming favorite to win at 4-5
Exterior of Churchill Downs featuring statue of Barbaro
To combat the spread of COVID-10, Churchill Downs has decided to hold the 146th Kentucky Derby on September 5 without fans in attendance. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Previous plan was 23,000 fans max

Churchill Downs has decided to run the Kentucky Derby, the world’s most prestigious horse race, without fans in attendance. In Friday’s announcement, the company said the move was made because of increasing COVID-19 cases in Louisville and Jefferson County, in particular.

The race was originally slated for May 2; the Kentucky Derby is historically held on the first Saturday of the month. In mid-March, however, because of the growing pandemic, Derby officials moved the race to Saturday, September 5.

In addition to moving the race to September, Churchill Downs expected to have 23,000 fans attend the event – a number based on 14% of the attendance record of 170,513 set in 2015.

“This year’s Kentucky Derby was never going to be the celebration we’re used to,” said Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen, “but I could not be more grateful to our tremendous team members and community partners for all of their efforts. We’ve left no stones unturned and reached the right decision.”

Difficult but necessary health decision

Churchill Downs said it was confident in its plan to hold the Kentucky Derby on September 5 with a limited number of fans in both the grandstand and 26-acre infield. However, the company also made sure it stayed flexible in the face of an unprecedented time.

do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community”

“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,” the company said.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear supported the decision, saying that COVID-19 is still “aggressively spreading” in the state. He added that the White House has deemed Jefferson County and the city of Louisville “red zones”.

Beshear also noted that the county had 2,300 new, confirmed cases last week. The state itself, while in the bottom half of the country in total cases, has still seen a sharp increase in cases since the end of June. The seven-day moving average of new cases is right around 600 per day, compared to fewer than 200 two months ago. Positivity rates at Norton Healthcare have skyrocketed from 2% in June to 10% currently.

Any challengers for Tiz the Law?

Tiz the Law, owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, is the heavy favorite that’s currently at 4-5 to win, according to CBSSports.com. Art Collector is next at 6-1, followed by Honor A.P. at 7-1. The stallion has won all four of its races this year, most recently the Runhappy Travers Stakes on August 8 at Saratoga.

A maximum of 20 horses can compete in the Kentucky Derby. To earn a spot in the starting gates, horses must race in specific qualifiers. The top four finishers in each race earn points toward the leaderboard. The top 20 overall points earners gain a spot in the Kentucky Derby, if their owners want to run them.

Tiz the Law has 372 points, nearly double that of Authentic, which has 200. Pneumatic won the final points race before the Kentucky Derby, earning 20 points. Prior to the race, Pneumatic was ranked 22nd with 25 points. The win earned the horse a spot in the Derby, as his 45 points now puts him in 12th position.

CBSSports.com has Pneumatic as one of the long shots at 90-1.