2020 has really thrown life through a loop, to say the least, but as well as the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting everyday life, it quickly moved on to affecting annual events and traditions. Even the Kentucky Derby was no exception.
For the first time since 1945, the Kentucky Derby was not held on the first Saturday in May, and this is now only the third time in history it's not been run in the month of May.
Officials hoped that moving the Derby back would allow time for the US to get the coronavirus pandemic under control and hopefully see a decline in the number of daily cases. The date has been set for Saturday, September 5, and fans are allowed to attend.
Given the current state of the pandemic and our concerns for public health, what restrictions or precautions are being placed on spectators at the event?
Rather than receiving commemorative tickets that could formerly be purchased through the box office, they will be replaced with mobile tickets that may only be purchased online or over the phone.
Guests attending the Derby are encouraged to wear a face mask and social distance whenever possible, and those who do not feel well are asked not to attend. As well as this, regular attendance will be reduced all throughout Churchill Downs, and sanitizing stations will be set up in multiple locations. Officials at Churchill Downs have not yet confirmed just how large of a crowd they will be allowing attend the event.
There is also a change in where admittance to the grounds may take place, to ensure that there will be adequate space to abide by CDC social distancing guidelines. General admission will only allow attendees to enter into the infield, not to the paddock or front side.
As for parking, the Kentucky Expo Center's regular shuttle buses will now have decreased capacity to ensure social distancing during the ride.
When eating, food will be covered and brought directly to the table of the attendee rather than served off a Chef's table as per usual. All concessions items will be individually wrapped and packets of condiments, disposable cutlery, and napkins will he handed out to each attendee. The menu will also be reduced for the event.
The staff will be working diligently to keep the facility sanitized, consistently staffing the bathrooms and cleaning frequently touched areas throughout the day.
Now that there is limited admission to the Derby, ticket prices are skyrocketing, and if you weren't able to grab one early on and are now depending on a secondary sale, you best be ready to dig deep in those pockets. The average ticket on the secondary market is now selling for over $1,400, the most expensive to date being listed as nearly $22,000.
Will the Derby be as big of a deal once the time comes? I mean, Belmont Stakes — the final leg of the Triple Crown — has already been run, and the Preakness Stakes was postponed until October. What was formerly a spring and summer tradition has now been moved almost into a different season. Will it be the same?
Clearly, even a global pandemic couldn't stop the world of horse racing the way it did other sports. Will this only build anticipation for what may be one of the most memorable Triple Crown years in history? Will Tiz the Law pull out a victory on the other two legs? Will the mint juleps taste the same in September?