(Reuters) – Kentucky’s Churchill Downs received state approval on Wednesday to reopen its stables on May 11 followed by spectator-free racing under strict guidelines to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
The home of the Kentucky Derby, which this year was moved to Sept. 5 from May 2 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, said opening day of its 2020 Spring Meet without spectators will be communicated in the coming days.
“There will be no fans for racing,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said in a news release issued by Churchill Downs.
“I will tell you this is one of the most detailed plans that 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.”
Churchill Downs’ stable areas have been closed since Dec. 31 for annual winter renovations and were originally scheduled to reopen March 17.
The racetrack, which previously postponed the start of its Spring Meet that was set to begin April 25, said when racing returns it will be staged at a minimum of four days per week, Thursday through Sunday.
Churchill Downs also said racing during its Spring Meet will be conducted spectator-free until government officials approve fans returning to the track.
In the meantime, only authorized racetrack employees and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission license holders who are providing support for a horse stabled at the facility will be permitted on property.
“The health and safety of our horsemen, staff and community remains paramount,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery.
“Strict compliance with our comprehensive COVID-19 Action Plan and social distancing guidelines is our responsible duty to effectively contain the virus.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Michael Perry)