(Reuters) - The Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in North American horse racing’s Triple Crown, will be postponed to September from May due to the coronavirus outbreak, local media reported on Monday.
The Louisville Courier Journal, citing sources close to the race, and television station WDRB said the race would take place on Sept. 5 instead of May 2 as scheduled.
Churchill Downs, which hosts the annual race, is set to hold a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the reports.
Only once before was the ‘Run for the Roses’ postponed and not contested on its traditional first Saturday in May slot when it was delayed a month in 1945 because of World War II.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation on Sunday that events of 50 or more people be canceled for the next eight weeks throughout the United States.
The race regularly draws close to 150,000 spectators.
The Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown run at Pimlico on May 16, could also be in jeopardy with the third leg, the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, set for June 6.
The Kentucky Derby, run at Louisville’s famed Churchill Downs, would become the latest in a long list of major sporting events to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic as governments around the global struggle to contain the outbreak.
Britain’s most iconic steeplechase, the Grand National, was canceled on Monday due to the coronavirus threat. The festival, first staged in 1839, was due to take place from April 2-4 at Aintree.
The coronavirus pandemic has infected almost 180,000 people and killed over 7,000 worldwide.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford