LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs won't allow any fans at this year's Kentucky Derby after all, a departure from their initial plan to host 23,000 spectators at the 146th Derby.
"The Kentucky Derby is a time-honored American tradition which has always been about bringing people together. However, the health and safety of our team, fans and participants is our highest concern," Churchill Downs officials said in a statement.
Initially, Churchill Downs planned to host the Derby at less than 15% capacity with just 23,000 fans in attendance.
"With the current significant increases in COVID19 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."
The decision to run without fans includes Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4 and all live racing at Churchill Downs Racetrack for Derby week. Only essential personnel and participants will be permitted on the property.
Ticket holders for all Derby Week race dates and related programming, including Dawn at the Downs, will be automatically issued a refund.
The 146th Derby, postponed from May, will be televised.
“This year’s Kentucky Derby was never going to be the celebration we’re used to, but I could not be more grateful to our tremendous team members and community partners for all of their efforts. We’ve left no stones unturned and reached the right decision,” said Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen in a release. “We hope our fans, the Louisville community and our country find an opportunity over the coming weeks to reflect on the challenges we have faced this year as a community and as a nation, and work together toward a better and safer future.”