June 25, 2020 / 2:31 PM / 17 days ago

Horse racing: Kentucky Derby will open doors to spectators

(Reuters) - The Kentucky Derby, which was rescheduled for Sept. 5 due to the novel coronavirus, will allow spectators onto the grounds to watch the Run for the Roses even as COVID-19 infections surge across parts of the United States, Churchill Downs Racetrack said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: An exercise rider works out Kentucky Derby hopeful Justify at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., May 1, 2018. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports??

“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,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery in a statement.

Normally run on the first Saturday in May, the first jewel of North American thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown instead finds itself this year sandwiched between the Belmont and Preakness Stakes.

The Belmont was run last Saturday without spectators in Elmont, New York and won by Tiz the Law.

The Preakness has been rescheduled for Oct. 3.

The longest continually held annual sporting event in the United States, the Kentucky Derby is also one of sport’s biggest parties famous for women in lavish head wear and men in sharp suits sipping on Mint Juleps.

While spectators will be welcomed back to Churchill Downs they will face strict health and safety guidelines.

Churchill Downs did not confirm the number of tickets that will be made available only that there would be capacity reductions to limit overall crowd density.

Guests will be encouraged to wear a mask at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue.

“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,” said Flanery. “We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis

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