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Fans will be allowed to attend the Kentucky Derby, with restrictions

The Twin Spires at Churchill Downs will have at least some fans present for the Kentucky Derby. (Darron Cummings/AP)
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Churchill Downs announced Thursday that fans will be allowed to attend the Kentucky Derby, which has been moved from its original date in May to Sept. 5 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The track will institute a number of operating procedures:

  • Spectators are “encouraged” to wear masks over their noses and mouths, though Churchill Downs said this rule could change based on government guidance. Fans also will be encouraged to wash their hands for 20 seconds throughout the day.
  • No paper tickets will be sold moving forward, though paper tickets sold for the original date of the race will be honored. All mobile tickets will need to be purchased online or over the phone.
  • The track’s capacity of approximately 170,000 fans will be reduced to ensure adequate social distancing. General admission access will be limited to the infield area; such ticket holders will not be allowed in the “front side” or paddock areas of the facility. Specifics on the attendance reduction will be released in the near future, according to the Courier-Journal of Louisville.
  • Food will be served to guests individually, and no buffets will be allowed.

“Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said in a news release announcing the decision. “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”

Kentucky plans to enter the third phase of its reopening plan Monday, with restaurants and bars allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and gatherings of 50 people or fewer allowed. Masks still will be required in businesses.

While Kentucky has not seen coronavirus cases spike as in other states, it also has not seen a steady decline.

The Belmont Stakes served as the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown and was run Saturday. The Kentucky Derby will be the second leg, followed by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Oct. 3. Whether fans will be allowed at the final race has yet to be announced.