Kentucky Derby will have fans in the stands 'under strict guidelines,' officials say

·5 min read

The 2020 Kentucky Derby will have fans in the stands "under strict guidelines" when it runs on the rescheduled date of Sept. 5, officials said Thursday.

The annual horse racing spectacle at Churchill Downs had been rescheduled earlier this year from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Churchill Downs announced Thursday that "after consultation with Gov. Andy Beshear and state public health officials," officials determined that the 146th edition of the Run for the Roses will take place with spectators "under strict guidelines."

The new plan, which was put into place with guidance from Kentucky's "Healthy at Work" plan and the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, will include several rules meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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During a media briefing later Thursday morning next to the Barbaro Memorial Statue outside of the famed racetrack, Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said he spoke Wednesday with Beshear and that the governor approved the plan for September.

Churchill Downs racetrack sits empty on Saturday, May 2, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky, on what would have been the 146th Running of The Kentucky Derby.  The race has been run 145 consecutive times but had to postpone until September 5, 2020, because of the coronavirus.
Churchill Downs racetrack sits empty on Saturday, May 2, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky, on what would have been the 146th Running of The Kentucky Derby. The race has been run 145 consecutive times but had to postpone until September 5, 2020, because of the coronavirus.

According to Churchill Downs, the safety measures include:

  • Venue capacity reductions to limit overall crowd density, including general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining and suites. More information on ticketing and seating areas will be released in the coming days and also will be sent directly to ticket holders.

  • 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.

  • Guests will be consistently and frequently encouraged to wear a cloth or other protective mask that fully covers their mouth and nose at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue. Guests are asked to not attend if not feeling well.

  • The mask guideline applies when riding on a shuttle, traveling through Churchill Downs, going to a restroom, placing an in-person wager or purchasing food or beverage from a concession stand.

  • Guests will be asked to wash their hands for 20 seconds or sanitize them frequently.

  • Guests will be encouraged to socially distance themselves from others when possible.

  • Access throughout the facility will be severely limited.

  • Credentials for employees, media and guests will be reduced.

  • 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.

  • Changes in venue operations to limit person-to-person touchpoints.

  • Team member protocols established to protect employees and guests.

  • Menu items will be covered and individually presented to guests instead of being served off of Chef’s tables. Menu selection will be reduced to ensure the same level of quality is maintained. Individual cutlery kits, napkins and single use condiments will be distributed to guests and all concession items will be wrapped.

  • Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby commemorative tickets will be replaced with mobile tickets to gain entry to the facility. Tickets for all Derby Week dates will not be sold at the box office and may be purchased online or over the phone.

  • Housekeeping staff will ensure that cleaning and sanitation of frequently touched surfaces are conducted using EPA registered household disinfectants. High touch point areas, including all seating, tabletops, and other tabletop items, door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, phones, pens, and keypads will be cleaned on a constant rotation. General guest-use restrooms will be staffed continuously to ensure restrooms are maintained to stay clean and sanitized throughout each day.

The rescheduled Derby Week is set for Sept. 1 to Sept. 5, with the Kentucky Oaks remaining in its traditional Friday slot before Derby takes center stage on Saturday.

Races will also happen earlier in Derby Week, with the popular "Thurby" day at the track set to take place on Thursday, Sept. 3.

During a radio interview Thursday morning on ESPN 680, Flanery did not provide a specific number of guests who will be allowed in for the race.

"It's really just trusting that people will be responsible as possible," Flanery said.

“We want (fans) to use what they’ve learned while they’re at the track,” he added, speaking of guests applying the various safety precautions they’ve been using over the past few months while in grocery stores and public spaces.

Flanery also said in a Thursday news release that the racetrack appreciates Beshear's leadership "and all of the hard work, collaboration and guidance that state and local officials and public health experts have provided us to safely and responsibly host Kentucky Derby Week in September with spectators."

"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," 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. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can."

Oaks and Derby tickets purchased for the originally-scheduled May dates are automatically valid for the new September race dates, according to Churchill Downs.

Those who purchased tickets but are not able to attend the rescheduled race dates can visit for more information.

Churchill Downs asks that anyone who purchased a ticket from a vendor or secondary market website other than or Derby Experiences to contact that site directly, as the racetrack is unable to process refunds for those tickets.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Derby 2020 will have fans in the stands at Churchill Downs