High water postpones Great Steamboat Race; Belle of Cincinnati can't make it to Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY (FOX19) - From the Kentucky Derby Festival:

Due to high water conditions on the Ohio River, the Kentucky Derby Festival's Great Steamboat Race presented by Turner Construction Company – originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 4 – will be rescheduled for Wednesday, June 29. The Belle of Cincinnati, the hometown Belle of Louisville's opponent in the riverboat rivalry race, will not be able to travel downriver next week because of the river conditions. In addition, the Derby Festival's Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament – originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, aboard the Belle of Cincinnati – has been postponed until Tuesday, June 28.

"Unfortunately, the Belle of Cincinnati will not be able to make it to Louisville in time for the traditional date for the Great Steamboat Race – the Wednesday of Derby Week," said Mike Berry, President and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival. "We are notifying ticket holders on both boats of the postponement and we'll move full-steam ahead for having the event on June 29. We'll still have all the components of the Great Steamboat Race at that time and the rescheduling will allow the river to recede and open up more shoreline for spectators."

Ticket holders should hold on to their tickets.  Great Steamboat Race tickets will be honored for both boats on June 29th.

"As originally planned, the Belle of Cincinnati will assume the temporary title of the 'Belle of Kentucky' in June and will serve as the fan boat for University of Kentucky spectators, while the Belle of Louisville will serve as the University of Louisville fan boat. The winner of the race will once again be determined by the number of points amassed by the crews of both vessels from performing a series of tasks throughout the day."

The Derby Festival Great Steamboat Race, first held in 1963, has only been cancelled once in 1967 and was rescheduled in 1983 due to high water. The 1983 race was also held in June.

For most of the event's history, the Belle of Louisville was pitted against the Delta Queen, with the Belle of Louisville finishing with an overall record of 23 victories versus 20 for the Delta Queen, which is now moored as a floating hotel on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga.

In 2009, a new era started for the race.  The Belle of Cincinnati was named to replace the Delta Queen.  This will be the seventh time the Belle of Cincinnati has competed in the Great Steamboat Race. Three other vessels have won the Great Steamboat Race – the Julia Belle Swain in 1976, the Natchez in 1982 and the Spirit of Jefferson in 1999.  (The Belle of Louisville was sidelined in 1999 after nearly sinking in 1998.)