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Kentucky Derby Rescheduled For September, Will Take Place With Fans

Riders cross the finish line at the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs last year.
Riders cross the finish line at the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs last year.

The Kentucky Derby will take place in the fall with spectators, racing venue Churchill Downs announced on Thursday.

The most famous horse racing event in the world, usually held in May, will now take place from Sept. 1 to Sept. 5. The Kentucky Derby will be on Sep. 5, and the Kentucky Oaks — a race for 3-year-old fillies — will run a day earlier.

Churchill Downs said it worked with state and local health officials to develop a plan that would allow the race to take place amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The precautions include limited capacity at the historic outdoor venue, no barn access to anyone other than personnel, and an updated code of conduct that says attendees will be "frequently encouraged" to wear masks and to practice social distancing.

"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," Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said.

"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," Flanery said.

He added that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear consulted with the racetrack about the new guidelines.

Kentucky hasn't seen a major spike in new coronavirus cases like some states across the country, though new cases have plateaued.

The Belmont Stakes ran last week in New York with no spectators and drew an estimated 4 million viewers on television. Tiz the Law, who was favored to win at 4-5 odds, took first there. The Preakness Stakes, the third and final race of the Triple Crown, is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tiz the Law, with jockey Manny Franco, crosses the finish line Saturday in front of an empty grandstand to win the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes horse race in Elmont, N.Y.
Seth Wenig / AP
Tiz the Law, with jockey Manny Franco, crosses the finish line Saturday in front of an empty grandstand to win the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes horse race in Elmont, N.Y.