The 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs will be rescheduled from May 2, 2020, to Sept. 5, 2020, and the 146th Longines Kentucky Oaks will be rescheduled from May 1, 2020 to Sept. 4, 2020. These dates are contingent upon final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which is expected at its next meeting March 19.
“For the second time in the 145 year history of the Kentucky Derby, the first time being at the end of World War II, we will move the date of the Derby,” said Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen during a March 17 teleconference with the median and investors. “Our team is united in holding the best Kentucky Derby ever and certainly the most unique in any of our lifetimes. While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, our company’s true legacy is one of resilience and embracing of change and unshakable resolve.
“We have moved past the fact we are changing a time-honored date that has not been touched in 75 years,” Carstanjen continued. “It had to be done. We own it and will make it a really special day. We are also excited that NBC is in talks to move the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to September and early October, respectively. We hope the parties can reach a final agreement. It will make for a really unique Triple Crown season and a perfect setup for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.”
As of 11 p.m. March 16, Maryland Jockey Club officials had not finalized any plans on this year’s Preakness Stakes, currently scheduled May 16 at Pimlico Race Course.
“Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and welfare of our industry participants and the public at large,” read an MJC statement. “We are working with state and local governments, our industry participants, media and other affiliates to determine the most appropriate time to conduct the Preakness Stakes. While we are mindful of the challenges these times present, we also know that events like the Preakness Stakes can help restore our sense of place and economic well-being to our communities and state. As soon as we have further clarity on these matters we will inform all.”
Mike Ricci, communications director for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, tweeted: After Kentucky Derby announcement today, we are in active discussions to POSTPONE the Preakness Stakes until September.”
The New York Racing Association also is working through the best date for the Belmont Stakes, which is currently scheduled for June 6 at Belmont Park.
“NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes,” NYRA CEO and President Dave O’Rourke said. “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else. NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.”
The last few weeks have been tumultuous for the sports world. Major League Baseball canceled spring training game, the NBA suspended games as of March 11, the NHL suspended play immediately, and college conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament were canceled. The PGA also canceled The Players Championship and The Masters has been postponed. As of March 16, only the May 24 Indy 500 was expected to continue as scheduled.
Like all businesses nationwide, Churchill Downs has been steadily making adjustments to its operations. The March 14 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park was run spectator-free. The company then delayed the opening of its stable area at Churchill Downs and its Trackside auxiliary training center. The stabling areas had been closed since Dec. 31 for annual winter renovations and were scheduled to reopen March 17. CDI also suspended operations at its Derby City Gaming historical horse racing facility and simulcasting at Churchill Downs racetrack for 14 days effective at midnight March 15.
While Carstanjen noted that conducting horse racing without spectators has been a good option in some incidences where events can be held safely, he said the energy of the Kentucky Derby comes from the crowd.
“We are confident we will run the Kentucky Derby and run it with a crowd,” he said. “The Kentucky Derby is a participatory event; its energy and its magic really comes from everybody being there to enjoy it. We will roll with the punches but we feel very good that Sept. 5 is the right date.”
In regards to qualifying to run, Carstanjen said new races will be added to the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” schedule, which will allow expanded opportunities for horses to earn a spot in the starting gate. Nothing about the rescheduling of the Derby or the expanded schedule affects the points that have been earned so far.
“We will take existing stakes races around the country and incorporate them into our point system. We will work with other prominent partner tracks that operate throughout the summer and determine the various paths to the starting gate at the Derby and enable the horses in the best form to compete,” Carstanjen said.
As for the stakes schedule built around Kentucky Derby week, the entire schedule planned for the first week in May will be transferred to the first week in September, according to Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack.
“Our intention is to move that Tuesday through Saturday footprint to September, starting Sept. 1 through Sept. 5, and really replicate the racing we would have had leading up to the First Saturday in May,” Flanery said.
Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby tickets purchased for the originally scheduled dates are automatically valid for the new race dates. You may arrive on the new dates in September with your printed ticket or mobile ticket to be scanned for entry at the gates. Information on a new ticket shipment date will be sent directly to ticket purchasers.
If you have purchased a ticket and are not able to attend the newly scheduled race dates, information regarding refund requests will be available at this site (KentuckyDerby.com/updates) by the end of this week. If your ticket was purchased from a vendor or secondary market website other than Churchill Downs, Ticketmaster.com or Derby Experiences, please contact that site directly. Churchill is unable to process refunds for those tickets.
The remainder of Derby Week races have not been decided at this time. Please visit KentuckyDerby.com/updates for the latest information regarding Opening Night, Champions Day, Wednesday, and Thurby.