Horse racing: Kentucky Derby scraps general admission for 2020 amid COVID-19

(Reuters) - The Kentucky Derby, which was rescheduled for Sept. 5 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, will be held in front of a significantly reduced crowd of less than 23,000 spectators, Churchill Downs Racetrack said on Wednesday.

According to the company’s health and safety operations plan, there will be no general admission this year, the infield will be closed and attendance will be limited to less than 14% of the record 170,513 set in 2015.

Reserved seating this year will also be limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy while temperature checks, medical screenings, physical distancing and face coverings will be mandated.

“For those guests who plan to join us for this year’s Derby, we promise you that we will make it a wonderful experience, and most importantly, we will make it as safe and comfortable as we possibly can,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said in a news release.

Churchill Downs had said in late June that general admission would be limited to the sprawling 26-acre infield. However, due to circumstances with the virus, those tickets will be refunded and the infield will be closed.

Usually held on the first Saturday in May as the first leg of U.S. thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown, this year’s Kentucky Derby was preceded by the Belmont Stakes in June and will be followed by the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar