When the Kentucky Derby was postponed in May, there was hope that coronavirus levels would be low enough to allow fans into Churchill Downs once the event took place. Now, with just weeks to go until the running of the 146th annual Kentucky Derby, the likelihood of fans being allowed into the famous racecourse looks low. Fans are still anticipating the Run for the Roses and the most exciting two minutes in sports on September 5th. Horse racing fans and punters can use the Jackpotjoy code ahead of the Kentucky Derby and get the latest information on the favorites for the historic event.
The possibility of over 100,000 fans being on hand at Churchill Downs took a major hit when legendary IndyCar race, the Indianapolis 500, announced in August that fans would not be permitted to the event. The motorsport race had initially made it known that fans would be allowed to attend Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the famous race. However, with the Indy 500 fast approaching on August 23, organizers backtracked on the decision to prevent what could have been more than 100,000 people from attending.
Organizers of the Kentucky Derby have time on their hands – although not much. Time affords race administrators to deliberate and survey the land to see if the Kentucky Derby can be held in front of a live gate. Major League Baseball could be the perfect example of why the race shouldn’t have fans in attendance, however. While the NBA and NHL went to “hub cities” to finish out their seasons, MLB teams were free to travel from town to town to play. This has left players and coaches exposed to contracting the coronavirus. In some cases, players have defied MLB guidelines and left hotels. Players from the St. Louis Cardinals sneaked out of their hotel and visited a casino. Days later those same players tested positive for the virus.
Having a large group of people in one place poses a major safety threat. Now, organizers of the Kentucky Derby must weight their options over whether or not it is safe to allow anyone that is not essential staff into Churchill Downs. It was initially claimed that Churchill Downs’ attendance would be slashed to one-third of its usual gate. In 2019, the Kentucky Derby attracted over 150,700 fans. A third of the attendance would still enable 50,000 people to attend, which at this time, is an incredibly optimistic figure.
According to Dr. Steven Hester, chief medical officer at Norton Healthcare located in Louisville, information on the coronavirus changes daily, so fans could attend by the time September rolls around.
One of the biggest issues that an empty Churchill Downs causes is that there will be no on-site betting. In 2019, over $149 million was wagered on the Kentucky Derby with a lot of that action coming at Churchill Downs. Horse racing fans will have to do their betting on the event from off-site shops or online. The financial blow to the racecourse and state of Kentucky will be significant if the event is held behind closed doors.