By Bill Finley
After submitting its proposal to allow fans to attend this year’s GI Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs officials are expecting to hear back from Governor Andy Beshear this week.
At his press briefing Monday, Beshear said he is reviewing Churchill’s proposal and would announce a decision shortly. Alluding to the GI Belmont S., where fans were not allowed in the stands, Beshear said he envisioned that the Kentucky Derby will be “different” than the Belmont.
“I believe that Churchill Downs made a very good decision to move the race,” the governor said. “It certainly wouldn’t have been safe when it was. I think they are offering a lot of concessions and are looking at safety precautions. I hope to have some information on this this week.”
“We submitted a plan to the governor’s office and we have continued our ongoing discussions about having a Kentucky Derby with spectators,” said Darren Rogers, Churchill’s senior director of communications. “We have had good, careful collaboration with their office and they have asked some questions and we gave them our answers. We expect to hear some news this week.”
Churchill has not released details of its proposal and it is not clear if management is seeking to have a Derby with an unlimited amount of spectators or one where the number of people that can attend is capped.
“Our team has worked through a number of different scenarios based on whatever permissions are granted,” Rogers said. “We want to have as many people as we can while operating safely and responsibly.”
Because of the pandemic, the date of the Derby was shifted from May 2 to Sept. 5 in hopes that by Labor Day weekend the coronavirus situation would become more manageable. It appears that will be the case. Beshear said in his press briefing Monday that he had no new coronavirus deaths to report and said he could only recall two other days since the pandemic started that that was the case. Kentucky will move into its next phase of reopening Monday. When that happens, Beshear said, “just about everything in the commonwealth will be open in some capacity.”