Kentucky Derby Postponement Likely Pushes Other Legs Of Triple Crown Back

Posted on March 19, 2020

For horse racing fans, 2020 will be a year that is long remembered. The Kentucky Derby postponement is just the start of that.

The 146th “Run for the Roses” has been pushed back to Labor Day weekend this year. It’s a historic change for the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Details on the Kentucky Derby postponement this year

The Kentucky Oaks will run on Friday, Sept. 4. The following day will see this year’s Kentucky Derby.

This will be the first time since 1945 that the derby hasn’t taken place on the first Saturday in May. That year the derby was delayed because of World War II.

It’s also just the third time ever that the race won’t be held anytime in May. In 1901, the race happened on April 29.

Because of the delay, the status of the other two legs of the Triple Crown is in flux. The New York Racing Association issued a statement to that effect.

NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else. NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.

The Preakness Stakes may run later in September, with the Belmont Stakes going early in October. Details on those and qualifying races should be forthcoming.

On top of the dates for those races, what else is uncertain right now is whether the races will be open to spectators. Some of that is beyond Churchill Downs’ control.

How CDC guidance could affect fans at future events

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all scheduled gatherings of at least 50 people be canceled or postponed over the next eight weeks. That’s one of the reasons behind Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order for casinos to close.

Like with the horse races, it’s a fluid situation that may change anytime. One of those possibilities is that the CDC may extend that eight-week period.

While delaying these races until September gives some time to work with, it’s still possible that the races could be run without spectators in the stands. Churchill Downs would prefer to avoid that scenario, obviously.

“We believe that moving our iconic event to Labor Day weekend this year will enable our country to have time to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said. “This will also provide our guests more time to reschedule their travel and hotel arrangements so they can attend.”

Churchill Downs selected that weekend because of a lack of competing events and access to accommodations. That may prove irrelevant if social distancing guidelines remain intact, however.

Government and racing authorities will work those details out over the next six months. What’s certain right now is that 2020 is not just another year for racing fans.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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