The Kentucky Derby Is Being Postponed Until September

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The iconic event is being postponed due to coronavirus.

The fastest two minutes in sports will have to wait several months. Churchill Downs just announced the 146th Kentucky Derby would be rescheduled from May 2 to September 5 this year. 

“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 Incorporated CEO, Bill Carstanjen, said in a statement. “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.”

The Derby and Kentucky Oaks (which will move from May 1 to September 4) is America’s longest-running annually held sporting event and has been hosted in Louisville since 1875. The postponement marks a massive change in history and adds to the long list of other major events like the Boston Marathon, March Madness, and SXSW that were canceled. 

All of the events leading up to the Kentucky Derby—more than 70 of them—will also be rescheduled to run in conjunction with the new Derby and Oaks dates. “The schedule may look a little different with events moving into a new timeframe,” said Matt Gibson, President & CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival, in a statement. “But our goal is to have Thunder Over Louisville, the miniMarathon, the Pegasus Parade, Fest-a-Ville, and the Chow Wagon, and many other events in between.”

The new dates were chosen to minimize the economic impact on local workers. There are 27,000 local workers whose jobs depend on tourism, and the weekend chosen is not a popular time for visitors allowing increased revenues during a typically slower period. 

“With the other growing festivals and events planned for the month such as the popular DWP concerts, we are looking forward to tourism rebounding and having a robust September,” said Karen Williams, President & CEO, Louisville Tourism, in a statement. 

It should be noted that all of these dates are awaiting final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which is expected on March 19.

Ultimately, overall wellness is the concern. “Public health and safety needs to be our focus right now,” added Gibbs. “We want to help in that effort, and we also want the community to know we will be here once we get through this.”