Churchill Downs: Number of Spectators Limited for Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs announced Wednesday that the number of spectators for this year’s Kentucky Derby will be limited, with less than 23,000 fans now expected at the track as a result of safety precautions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Track officials cited physical distancing protocols and other safety measures in restricting the number of spectators for the Sept. 5 race to less than 14% of the total capacity from the record crowd of 170,513 that saw American Pharoah win the first leg of the Triple Crown in 2015.

Reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy, and pre-purchased general admission tickets will be refunded and the infield will be closed because there will be no general admission throughout Kentucky Derby week, including the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, officials said.

Standing Room Only and “Walk Around” tickets have also been eliminated.

“We will have fewer guests at this year’s Derby as reducing the size of the crowd is an important step to ensuring a safe environment,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said in a statement. “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.”

Spectators will each receive a “Healthy at the Track” bag, which will include a disposable mask, a pocket-sized hand sanitizer and a personal stylus for non-contact self-service wagering, officials said.

A 62-page health and safety operations plan calls for:

— Mandatory wearing of cloth face coverings throughout the entire venue — both indoors and outdoors — when not actively consuming food or beverage;

— Everyone entering the track to be screened through a medical questionnaire and a contactless thermometer, with anyone with a temperature in excess of 100 degrees to be barred from entering Churchill Downs;

— Personal hand-sanitizers will be provided upon entry to the track, with more than 500 hand-sanitizing stations to be placed throughout the track;

— Severely limited access throughout the facility;

— Pari-mutuel tellers will be properly spaced and provided personal protective equipment, with spectators encouraged to wager online through;

— Concession stands will be limited to mostly pre-packaged foods, with plated meals and meal packages from pre-set menus to be served in other locations;

— Shuttles from off-site parking locations are being eliminated, with spectators being encouraged to find neighborhood parking options;

— Stable area will be restricted to essential personnel.

“For those guests who plan to join us for this year’s Derby, we promise you that we will make it a wonderful experience, and most importantly, we will make it as safe and comfortable as we possibly can,” Flanery said in announcing the latest safety measures.

Churchill Downs had announced in June that spectators would be hand for the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. The announcement came less than a week after the Belmont Stakes was run without any fans on the track in New York.