Kentucky Derby Organizers Do a 180 on Spectators

Decision to allow fans to attend this year's event in September is reversed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2020 6:30 AM CDT
Kentucky Derby Organizers Do a 180 on Spectators
In this May 4, 2019, file photo, a woman wears a colorful hat at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby horse race in Louisville, Ky.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Organizers tried to figure out a way to keep the Kentucky Derby horse race safe for fans this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, but those efforts have apparently come to naught. Per WLKY, Churchill Downs announced Friday it wouldn't be allowing spectators after all at the Sept. 5 event in Louisville. "Churchill Downs has worked diligently over the last several months to plan a safe Derby with a limited number of spectators in attendance," reads a Churchill Downs statement. "We were confident in that plan, but ... with the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning." Officials added, per the Courier Journal: "We deeply regret the disappointment this will bring to our loyal fans."

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is said to agree with the decision, calling it "right and responsible," per WLKY. Earlier in the week, Beshear had shown data that placed Jefferson County, where Louisville is located, in a "red zone" in terms of coronavirus cases, indicating a "critical" situation. The decision applies not only to the Derby, but also to the Kentucky Oaks and other live races held at Churchill Downs that week. Anyone who'd already purchased tickets to these events will be able to get a full refund. Meanwhile, activists tell the Courier Journal that the Derby should be canceled altogether as a statement in support of bringing justice in the shooting death by Louisville police of unarmed Black EMT Breonna Taylor. "If Breonna Taylor can't get justice, then horses can't run," one activist tells the paper. "Have horses now become more important than Black life?" (More Kentucky Derby stories.)

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