The pomp, the circumstance, the outlandish hats, and the ice-cold mint juleps will have to wait.
Earlier today, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) announced it is pushing the Kentucky Derby back to the fall, citing concerns about the coronavirus.
“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,” CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement. “As the situation evolved, we reached the difficult conclusion that we needed to reschedule. At no point did we ever consider canceling the Kentucky Derby.”
Tentative dates set for September
CDI’s announcement about the decision laid out the tentative dates for the 146th Kentucky Derby and 146th Kentucky Oaks races:
- Kentucky Oaks: Sept. 4
- Kentucky Derby: Sept. 5
The decision is subject to the final approval of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. CDI said it expects to get the green light from the commission on Thursday.
The cancellation is a blow to the Derby, which, according to the Kentucky Derby Museum, brings more than 160,000 to Louisville each year. Recent economic impact studies indicate the event imparts $217 million into the local economy
Postponement only the second one in race’s history
Coronavirus has done something that only a war could do to America’s most iconic horse race.
The only other time the race was postponed in its 145-year history was 1945, when World War II pushed the contest back into June.
At the end of 1944, the director of the Office of War Mobilization at the time asked racetracks to close operations. The Derby was at the mercy of the war. But, thankfully, Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. One month later the nation’s finest racehorses exploded from the gates just as they did in the past 70 years.
Hoop Jr. was the winning horse in 1945, trained by Ivan H. Parke and ridden by Eddie Arcaro.
Since that historic 1945 race, there have been:
- Six Triple Crown winners (Justify, American Pharoah, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Citation)
- Five winners trained by Bob Baffert (Justify, American Pharaoh, War Emblem, Real Quiet, Silver Charm)
- Three wins each by jockeys Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux, and Calvin Borel
- Zero horses who beat Secretariat’s time of 1:59.50
Derby announcement comes amid string of CDI closures
The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks postponements are the latest in a string of decisions to suspend operations at tracks across the country.
Yesterday, CDI announced the suspension of operations at the following tracks and casinos:
- Miami Valley Gaming (OH)
- Rivers Casino Des Plaines (IL)
- Derby City Gaming (KY)
- Churchill Downs simulcast (KY)
- Oceans Downs Casino (MD)
- Calder Casino (FL)
- Oxford Casino (ME)
- Fair Grounds slots (LA)
- Lady Luck Nemacolin (PA)
- Arlington Park off-track betting sites (IL)
- Fair Grounds off-track betting and video poker facilities (LA)
- Presque Isle Casino (PA)
The closures within the CDI network of properties coincides with the cancellation and suspension of dozens of sporting events and leagues nationwide.