The Kentucky Derby is set to be rescheduled to September 5, Churchill Downs has announced.
The Classic would usually take place on the first Saturday in May – but given the current coronavirus outbreak, the track has opted to switch the race until later in the year.
A date of September 4 has been set for the fillies’ equivalent, the Kentucky Oaks, with final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission expected to be granted on Thursday.
Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO Bill Carstanjen said: “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.
“As the situation evolved, we steadily made all necessary operational adjustments to provide the safest experience and environment.
“The most recent developments have led us to make some very difficult, but we believe, necessary decisions – and our hearts are with those who have been or continue to be affected by this pandemic.
“Our team is united in our commitment to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and certainly the most unique in any of our lifetimes.
“While we are always respectful of the time-honoured traditions of the Kentucky Derby, our company’s true legacy is one of resilience, the embracing of change and unshakeable resolve.”
The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness at Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park at the beginning of June.
Discussions concerning the second two races in the series are ongoing, with New York Racing Association CEO and president Dave O’Rourke issuing a statement.
He said: “NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritise public health and safety above all else.
“NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments.
“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.”