Kentucky Derby Postponed for the First Time in 75 Years amid Growing Coronavirus Concerns

The annual horse race has been pushed back to September

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

The annual Kentucky Derby has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

On Tuesday morning, Churchill Downs released a statement confirming that the annual horse race will be postponed until September. WDRB was first to report the news on Monday.

“The 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will be rescheduled from May 2, 2020 to September 5, 2020 and the 146th Longines Kentucky Oaks will be rescheduled from May 1, 2020 to September 4, 2020. These dates are contingent upon final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission which we expect to receive on Thursday, March 19,” the statement read.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen then added, “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. As the situation evolved, we steadily made all necessary operational adjustments to provide the safest experience and environment. The most recent developments have led us to make some very difficult, but we believe, necessary decisions and our hearts are with those who have been or continue to be affected by this pandemic.”

“Our team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever and certainly the most unique in any of our lifetimes,” he continued. “While we are always respectful of the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby, our Company’s true legacy is one of resilience, the embracing of change and unshakeable resolve.”

Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby. Rob Carr/Getty

Prior to their decision, organizers had released a statement saying that they were “working carefully and diligently with relevant health experts and authorities to ensure we make the most responsible decision regarding the timing of the 146th Kentucky Derby this year.”

In their updated statement, Churchill Downs added that “the remainder of Derby Week races have not been decided at this time.”

This is the first time the Kentucky Derby has been pushed back from the first Saturday of May in 75 years. It was last postponed in 1945 when the U.S. government issued a ban on horse racing amid World War II, according to the Courier Journal. That year, the race took place the following month, in June.

The Kentucky Derby joins a slew of sporting events across the country and the globe that have been impacted by the pandemic.

As health and government officials around the world urge people to practice social distancing, many sports have canceled or postponed their seasons, games and tournaments to adhere to protocols helping to contain the spread of the virus.

PEOPLE previously reported that the following U.S.-based sports have taken initiative during the outbreak: NASCAR, the NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, NCAA, XFL, Cheerleading, Tennis and Golf. The Boston Marathon, which normally takes place in April, has also been postponed to September 14.

Related Articles