Churchill Downs preparing for racing again

chruchill downs
Training is set to resume at Churchill Downs before approval for phased-in crowd-free racing.

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Churchill Downs will open stables at the track and training centre in phases before races are run during its spring meeting without spectators.

The historic track has postponed the Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will mark the first time since 1945 horse racing’s marquee event will not run on the first Saturday in May.

The opening of stables closed since December 31 for winter renovations has been being delayed several times.

The spring meeting was scheduled to open last Saturday.

A statement from Churchill Downs said Kentucky state officials approved opening the stables from May 11 under strict guidelines to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Racing will begin after track officials evaluate its incoming horse population and load-in procedures and spectator-free until government officials approve their return.

“The health and safety of our horsemen, staff and community remains paramount,” track president Kevin Flanery said.

“Strict compliance with our comprehensive COVID-19 Action Plan and social distancing guidelines is our responsible duty to effectively contain the virus.”

The track’s plan includes:

* Masks to be worn before entering and at all times on the grounds;

* COVID-19 testing and medical screening. Those who don’t comply or fail the screening will be denied entry and asked to self-quarantine per CDC guidelines.

* Colour-coded wristbands for everyone on the grounds to validate passing that day’s screening.

Horsemen and employees must practice social distancing procedures, with jockeys adequately spaced out in the jockeys’ room.

Daily on-site check-ins to screen individuals residing on the track will be established along with quarantine protocols.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear called the track’s plan “one of the most detailed we have seen about specific security checks that everybody has to go through and be temperature-checked, to masking to having a very limited group that is there”.