Normally in May, the Run for the Roses will be held in September.
Kentucky Derby officials announced that the September 5 event will welcome a limited number of guests in the stands.
The Run for the Roses generally runs on the first weekend in May, but due to COVID-19, the race was postponed until the fall. Interestingly, that put the Belmont, which ran on its original date in June as the first leg of the Triple Crown this year.
The horses hit the track for the Belmont without fans in the stands, a first for the race. The Derby, however, has decided that guests will be allowed, which should be interesting for a variety of reasons.
According to an operation plan, a maximum of 23,000 guests will be allowed in the stands this year. Reserved seating will be held to about 40 percent capacity. For those of us who can't break the bank to reserve seats, we are pretty much out of luck. General admission is canceled and those tickets will be refunded. Standing-room only tickets have been eliminated. And, the infield, which is generally teeming with, er ... humanity (if you've ever been there, you know what I mean) will be closed entirely.
In all, the restrictions will mean that the crowd will be less than 20 percent of the race day's usual attendance. The record crowd of 170,513 was set in 2015.
"Reducing the size of the crowd is an important step to ensuring a safe environment,” Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said in a news release. “Medical best practices and protocols — many of which we have applied in consultation with experts both inside and outside the sports industry — will be implemented, and we’ll make adjustments all the way up to Derby Day as we find ways to improve and continue to adhere to ever-evolving best practices.”
What also should be interesting will be the horses' reactions to semi-full stands. Many have been running sans fans most of the race season, so the noise and distractions might play a part in how the race plays out. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, so we will see if he can take the next two legs to win the Triple Crown.
The Derby will be televised on NBC.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.