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Churchill Downs to reopen stables, race without spectators

Churchill Downs sits mostly empty following the announcement that the 146th Kentucky Derby will be postponed until Sept. 5 due to the Coronavirus on March 17, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Churchill Downs will open stables at the track and training center in phases starting May 11 before races are run during its spring meet without spectators.

The historic track postponed the Kentucky Derby last month from May 2 to Sept. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will mark the first time since 1945 horse racing’s marquee event will not run on the first Saturday in May.

The opening of stables closed since Dec. 31 for winter renovations has been being delayed several times. The spring meet was scheduled to open last Saturday.

A statement from Churchill Downs said Kentucky state officials approved opening the stables under strict guidelines to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Racing will begin after track officials evaluate its incoming horse population and load-in procedures and spectator-free until government officials approve their return.

health and safety of our horsemen, staff and community remains
paramount,” track president Kevin Flanery said. “Strict compliance with
our comprehensive COVID-19 Action Plan and social distancing guidelines
is our responsible duty to effectively contain the virus.”

The track’s plan includes:

  • Masks to be worn before entering and at all times on the grounds.
  • COVID-19 testing and medical screening. Those who don’t comply or fail the screening will be denied entry and asked to self-quarantine per CDC guidelines.
  • Color-coded wristbands for everyone on the grounds to validate passing that day’s screening.

and employees must practice social distancing procedures, with jockeys
adequately spaced out in the jockeys’ room. Daily on-site check-ins to
screen individuals residing on the backside will be established along
with quarantine protocols.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called the
track’s plan “one of the most detailed we have seen about specific
security checks that everybody has to go through and be
temperature-checked, to masking to having a very limited group that is