The Kentucky Derby — the world’s most famous, and iconic, horse race — has been rescheduled to September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Run for the Roses, traditionally run on the first Saturday in May, will be moved to the first Saturday in September, Churchill Downs Inc. officially announced Tuesday morning. The 146th Derby, which was scheduled for May 2, will now take place Sept. 5, the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend.
“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. As the situation evolved, we steadily made all necessary operational adjustments to provide the safest experience and environment. The most recent developments have led us to make some very difficult, but we believe, necessary decisions and our hearts are with those who have been or continue to be affected by this pandemic,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement.
The move could be a precursor to the delay of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Churchill Downs said that it is in talks with NBC to move the Preakness Stakes, traditionally run two weeks after the Derby, and the Belmont Stakes, traditionally run three weeks after the Preakness, to the fall as well.
The Kentucky Oaks, the most lucrative race in the United States for 3-year-old fillies traditionally run the day before the Derby, was also rescheduled. It will be run Friday, Sept. 4.
Both date changes are contingent upon final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which Churchill Downs Inc. expects to receive on Thursday.
Meanwhile Thunder Over Louisville, the airshow and massive fireworks display that annually kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival, will also be postponed. Thunder will be rescheduled to Aug. 15, according to several published reports.
The postponement of the Derby means that the Run for the Roses will not take place on the first Saturday in May since 1945, when it was delayed until June due to World War II. The Derby was previously run outside the month of May only twice before — April 29, 1901 and June 9, 1945.
The Derby annually draws more than 100,000 spectators to Churchill Downs.
“We feel confident that we are going to run the Kentucky Derby and we’re going to run it with a crowd,” Carstanjen said at a press conference Tuesday morning.
This will mark the second straight year of a historic occurrence at the Derby.
At last year’s Derby, Maximum Security crossed the finish line first, ahead of Country House. However, following a post-race objection for obstruction, the long-shot Country House was declared the winner and Maximum Security was disqualified. It marked the first time in Derby history that the first-place finishing horse was DQ’d for an on-the-track infraction.