Originally, the most prestigious horse race in America -- the crowning jewel of the Triple Crown -- was scheduled for May 2, as it's traditionally held on the first Saturday in May. However, across the country, and indeed the world, sporting leagues are closing their doors, canceling or postponing their seasons, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement that his organization has had to make the same difficult decision.
"Throughout the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first priority has been how to best protect the safety and health of our guests, team members and community," he noted.
Holding the Derby as planned would have brought 150,000 or more spectators into a relatively small area and in close proximity to each other -- the exact opposite of the "social distancing" that health officials recommend to stem the tide of coronavirus.
Carstanjen also noted that the Derby, perhaps moreso than any other sporting event in America, is one of ancient and time-honored tradition. He said that, while that tradition was disrupted this year, the company will remain steadfast.
"While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, our Company's true legacy is one of resilience, the embracing of change and unshakeable resolve," he said, reminding readers that the 146th Kentucky Derby, though held four months late, will be the "best Kentucky Derby ever."
As for ticket-holders who have already purchased their tickets for either the Kentucky Derby or another event that weekend -- the Kentucky Oaks -- those tickets will be good at the rescheduled date. Otherwise, customers are asked to work with Churchill Downs management about getting a refund.
Meanwhile, Churchill Downs continues to operate as a race track the other 51 weeks of the year, in addition to the week of and leading up to the Kentucky Derby. And like other sports venues, Churchill Downs is closing up shop, at least for a while: the venue has closed down for at least two weeks. Employees will be paid during that period, according to Louisville's WDRB-TV.
Since its inception in 1875, the Kentucky Derby has been run every year without exception, even as other sports have shut down during the Great Depression, two world wars and even another pandemic.