Washington (AFP) - A limited number of spectators will be allowed to attend the 146th Kentucky Derby on September 5, officials at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, announced Thursday.
The Derby typically jams more than 100,000 people into the track for the usual opening jewel in American flat racing's Triple Crown.
But the coronavirus pandemic forced postponement of the event from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September and shuffled the Triple Crown order.
Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes last Saturday, contested without spectators in New York, to open this year's Triple Crown series with the Derby to be the middle race of the treble, followed by the postponed Preakness on October 3 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Churchill Downs consulted with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and state public health officials before imposing strict guidelines to allow a limited number of spectators for the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks race the day before.
"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," Downs 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. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can."
Exact spectator numbers have not yet been determined but the safety rules and regulations they must follow include:
Seating and infield area capacity reductions to limit crowd density.
Limited facility access, including barn area restrictions to essential personnel and calling off all guests and parties in the barn area.
Venue operations changes will limit person-to-person touchpoints with revised safety rules for fans and employees, including wearing masks at all times while at the track and social distancing whenever possible.
"Both employees and guests are asked to take an active role in following all guidelines," Flanery said. "We must all do our part to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience."