The latest sports domino to fall in the ongoing Coronavirus crisis landed in Louisville, Ky, on Tuesday, as Churchill Downs announced it is rescheduling the Kentucky Derby and it’s moved from May 2 to Sept. 5.
Kentucky Derby Move Approval?
The move requires approval of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but that should be a formality on Thursday, setting in motion a series of changes that would make this year’s Triple Crown a Fall Classic.
“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,” Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said. “As the situation evolved, we reached the difficult conclusion that we needed to reschedule. At no point did we ever consider canceling the Kentucky Derby.
“Certainly things can change over time. This was a very thoughtful, carefully considered plan that we’re implementing and we feel really good about it and we feel really confident about it. We also feel confident that we are going to run the Kentucky Derby and we are going to run it with a crowd. The Kentucky Derby is a participatory event. Its energy and its magic really comes from every participating and being there to enjoy it. We’re going to make it happen. This race has happened 145 years in a row, and it’s going to happen 146. We’ll roll with the punches, but we feel very, very good that September is the right date.”
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Carstanjen said television rights holder NBC “is in talks” to move the Preakness to mid-September and the Belmont to early October. Triple Crown tradition calls for the Preakness to be held two weeks after the Derby (Sept. 19) and the Belmont to take place three weeks after the Belmont (Oct. 10).
“We hope the parties can reach a final agreement,” Carstanjen said. “It will make for a really unique Triple Crown season and a perfect setup for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.”
Both the Maryland Jockey Club and the New York Racing Association released statements on the plans for their Triple Crown legs.
“Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and welfare of our industry participants and the public at large,” the MJC said. “We are working with state and local governments, our industry participants, media and other affiliates to determine the most appropriate time to conduct the Preakness Stakes. While we are mindful of the challenges these times present we also know that events like the Preakness Stakes can help restore our sense of place and economic well-being to our communities and state. As soon as we have further clarity on these matters we will inform all.”
New York Racing Association CEO and president Dave O’Rourke issued the following statement on the Belmont:
“NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes,” O’Rourke said. “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else. NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.”
NFL Draft Changes
On Monday, the NFL announced its first major disruption to its plans because of recommended social distancing practices in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. The NFL Draft, which is planned for Las Vegas April 23-25, will proceed, but all public events surrounding the event have been canceled. Fans can watch the draft on TV, but it will be resemble something like the drafts of the 1970s, when teams called in picks by telephone.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority – the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday in a statement. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”
The NFL also announced that offseason workouts, scheduled to begin April 20, will be postponed and possibly scrapped altogether.