The 146th-Annual Kentucky Derby Will Run in September — With Fans in Attendance

The "most exciting two minutes in sports" will be run in front of about 23,000 fans versus the usual more than 150,000 extravagantly hatted individuals

The 146th-Annual Kentucky Derby Will Run in September — With Fans in Attendance
Photo: Kentucky Derby Facebook

Originally slated to run May 5, the 146th annual Kentucky Derby is now scheduled for Sept. 5 and many didn't know whether or not the horse race would go ahead as planned in the midst of COVID-19.

But, it is.


First held in 1875, the Kentucky Derby is the "longest continually-held major sporting event in the United States." Never canceled, it has been postponed once before in 1945 due to World War II. 

But this year's most exciting two minutes in sports will come with some modifications as Churchill Downs Racetrack, the Derby's venue, has released a 62-page health and safety plan.

The main change will be no general admission this year. The Derby says a record crowd of 170,513 attended in 2015 and they are allowing about 14% of that this year: 23,000. All pre-purchased general admission tickets will be refunded and the infield will be closed.

Reserved seating areas will be capped at a max 40% capacity and there will be no standing room only or walk around tickets available. If you have purchased an outdoor ticket, you will be reseated in a "new comparable location either prior to or during the event to provide for maximum distancing."

“The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs on the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “Our extensive plan meets or exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines. We’ve received an exceptional level of support from regulators, medical experts and public health authorities and we’ll continue to carefully work with them to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers, employees and communities safe."

The Derby says each guest will get their own "Healthy at the Track” bag when they enter with a disposable mask, pocket-sized hand sanitizer and a personal stylus for "non-contact self-service wagering."

Other safety precautions include:

  • Mandatory face masks indoor and out when not eating or drinking.
  • Everyone who enters Churchill Downs will be screened via a medical questionnaire and have their temperature taken. If you have a fever above 100 degrees, you cannot enter.
  • Personal hand sanitizer will be given out upon entry and there will be 500 hand sanitizing stations throughout the space.
  • "Pari-mutuel tellers will be properly spaced and provided PPE for betting transactions. Guests are encouraged to wager online through TwinSpires.com, the official advance deposit wagering platform of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby," says the Derby.
  • Most concessions will be pre-packed foods.

You can read the full COVID safety plan at kentuckyderby.com.

And if you aren't going to the Derby this year, you can still dress up in a hat and seersucker, make yourself a julep and watch it on TV. 

NBC will air the 146th Kentucky Derby 2:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 5.

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