LOUISVILLE, Ky. (FOX19) - No fans will be allowed at the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, according to Churchill Downs.
The company attributes the move to a “significant increase in COVID-19 cases” around Louisville.
Though Kentucky’s overall case growth appears to have plateaued following a July surge, according to Gov. Andy Beshear, Jefferson County had 2,300 newly confirmed cases this week alone.
For reference, over the past two weeks, Hamilton County (10 percent larger than Jefferson County) saw just 688 newly confirmed cases.
The company’s move marks a reversal from its announcement Aug. 12 in which it said it would allow around 23,000 fans at the track.
The track’s all-time attendance record was set in 2015 at 170,000 fans, according to FOX19 NOW’s sister site in Louisville, WAVE 3.
A statement on the derby’s website says the Churchill Downs has worked for months to create a plan including a limited number of spectators in attendance.
“We were confident in that plan,” the statement reads, “but dedicated to remaining flexible using the best and most reliable information available. With the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning.”
“We have made the difficult decision to hold this year’s Kentucky Derby on September 5 without fans. Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that. We deeply regret the disappointment this will bring to our loyal fans.”
Beshear said: “I applaud Churchill Downs for continuing to monitor the virus and for making the right and responsible decision. I am asking all Kentuckians to take action to stop the spread of the virus so we can get back to the many traditions we enjoy, like the Kentucky Derby.”
The decision to run without fans includes Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4 and all live racing at Churchill Downs Racetrack for Derby week, Sept. 1-5.
Ticket holders for all Derby week race dates and related programming, including Dawn at the Downs, will be automatically issued a refund.