Churchill Downs Racetrack has confirmed that attendance at this year’s Kentucky Derby on September 5 will be limited to less than 23,000.

The attendance has been capped at less than 14 per cent of the total capacity in 2015, when the event attracted a record crowd of 170,513. Safety measures set up due to COVID-19 mean that fewer than 23,000 spectators are expected for this year’s race.

Churchill Downs officials have released a 62-page health and safety operations plan that will limit the capacity. There will be no general admission and reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40 per cent occupancy. Pre-purchased general admission tickets will be refunded.

Standing room only or ‘walk around’ tickets have been eliminated. All outdoor ticket holders will be reseated in a new comparable location either prior to or during the event to provide for maximum social distancing.

Fans will be required to wear face coverings upon entrance and within the 190-acre venue, while temperature checks and medical questionnaires will also be carried out. Each guest will also receive a ‘Healthy at the Track’ bag, which will include a disposable mask, a pocket-sized hand sanitiser and a personal stylus for non-contact self-service betting.

The Kentucky Derby had initially been due to take place on May 2 but will now be held in September. It will mark the first time in 15 years that the race will not be run on the first Saturday in May.

Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said: “The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs in the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted.

“Our extensive plan meets or exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines. We’ve received an exceptional level of support from regulators, medical experts and public health authorities and we’ll continue to carefully work with them to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers, employees and communities safe.”

The Masters

In other news, Augusta National Golf Club has confirmed that the 2020 Masters tournament will be held without fans.

The third and final golf major of the year is scheduled to take place from November 12-15. All ticket holders for this year’s event will be able to attend the 2021 edition, with Augusta National to communicate directly with all ticket holders and 2021 ticket applicants in September.

The Masters had originally been due to take place from April 9-12 but was postponed due to COVID-19.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said: “Since our initial announcement to postpone the 2020 Masters, we have remained committed to a rescheduled tournament in November while continually examining how best to host a global sporting event amid this pandemic. As we have considered the issues facing us, the health and safety of everyone associated with the Masters has always been our first and most important priority.

“Throughout this process, we have consulted with health officials and a variety of subject matter experts. Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome.”

The first golf major of the year, the PGA Championship, took place last weekend. The US Open is set to take place from September 17-20 without fans but The Open has been cancelled completely.

Big 12

Meanwhile, the Big 12 US college sports conference has confirmed that it will proceed with plans for its fall seasons.

It comes after the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences earlier this week postponed their seasons due to COVID-19.

Big 12 members have committed to enhanced COVID-19 testing, including three tests per week in ‘high-contact’ sports such as American football, volleyball and football. Strict return-to-play protocols following positive tests will include an EKG, troponin blood test, echocardiogram, and cardiac MRI.

Victor Boschini, chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors, said: “Our student-athletes want to compete, and it is the board’s collective opinion that sports can be conducted safely and in concert with the best interests of their well-being.

“We remain vigilant in monitoring the trends and effects of COVID 19 as we learn more about the virus. If at any point our scientists and doctors conclude that our institutions cannot provide a safe and appropriate environment for our participants, we will change course.”

All of Big 12’s sports competitions will commence after September 1.

So far, the ACC and SEC are the only two ‘Power Five’ conferences that are yet to announce their plans for the coming season.

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