By Bill Finley
When asked at his Friday press briefing whether or not he will give tracks in his state permission any time soon to hold races without fans in the stands, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear made it clear that he will require the tracks to stay closed for the foreseeable future.
“At least as long as you are seeing an escalation (of the coronavirus), you would still have to have groups of people that would have to come together to make that happen,” he said. “It would be the same as the NBA, which is canceled right now. There might be a point where we see cases going down and that would be something we can consider. Right now, we shouldn't be getting people together for any reason whatsoever.”
Beshear was also asked if he had a time line for allowing the tracks to resume racing.
“My answer is that it's going to take as long to defeat this virus as it takes,” he said. “We are talking about some term of months and we're not talking about some term of years. The moment we believe it is X days away is the moment people start relaxing on social distancing. We see the spike and ultimately we lose more people because of it.”
Keeneland has already canceled its spring meet, which was set to begin last Friday. The 2020 spring meet at Churchill Downs is scheduled to begin April 25. On Thursday, Churchill officials told the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that they would be willing to hold racing before empty stands if given permission to do so.
“If we are asked to run spectator-less, then we will be prepared to do that,” said Kevin Flanery, the senior vice president of Churchill Downs, Inc. “Whatever scenario is put forward to us, we're trying to work through those [conditions] and be ready to run at the right time.”
Churchill has already rescheduled the GI Kentucky Derby, which was originally supposed to be run May 2 and is now slated to be held Sept. 5.
Beshear said that 831 individuals in Kentucky have tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday and that 40 people have died. According to the website cvid19.healthdata.org, the peak of the coronavirus, in terms of deaths, will not come to Kentucky until May 19.
Beshear used his Friday press conference to praise the Rood and Riddle veterinary clinic for helping in the fight to combat the coronavirus. He said Rood and Riddle had donated 1,200 surgical masks, 9,000 gloves and 100 pairs of Tyvek suits.
“Our veterinarians around the state are helping,” he said. “They are sending PPE and anything they don't need. This is from Rood and Riddle, which is a great surgery center. Look at some of those numbers. This is really going to help our front-line healthcare workers.”