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No Fans At 2020 Breeders’ Cup

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • The 2020 Breeders’ Cup will be held on November 6 and 7 at Kentucky’s Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic the 2020 Breeders’ Cup will be run without fans in attendance.
  • The four biggest events in horse racing 2020 will be run without fans: the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup.

The announcement didn’t exactly come as a surprise but the 2020 Breeders’ Cup will be held without fans. It was made official on Saturday with a post on the Breeders’ Cup website and an email to media/ticketholders.

The message from Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Drew Fleming was short and to the point:

To the fans and supporters of Breeders’ Cup,

From the moment the COVID-19 pandemic began changing the world as we know it, we have been closely monitoring the evolving pandemic and its potential impact on the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The health and safety of our fans, participants, employees, athletes and the public at large have always been our top priorities and continue to guide all of our decisions. In recent weeks, and in working closely with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, local officials and public health experts, it has become clear that to accomplish these goals we must alter our plans for the upcoming World Championships.

As such, we have made the difficult decision to conduct the 2020 World Championships without fans in attendance. I can assure you that this decision was not made lightly and that I am just as disappointed about these unfortunate circumstances as anyone, given that this unusual year will mark my first Breeders’ Cup as President and CEO. However, especially considering the international nature of the event, we simply cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our fans and the local Lexington community.

We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we fully assessed all available options. All 2020 ticket purchasers will be receiving a full refund and can click here for complete refund information.

The announcement was not without a bit of good news: the 2022 Breeders’ Cup will be returning to Keeneland as something of a ‘make good’ for this year.

The 2020 Breeders’ Cup will be run on November 6 and 7 at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky. NBC Sports will provide television coverage.

The Daily Racing Form pointed out that with the Breeders’ Cup going ‘fan free’ that the four biggest events in US horse racing will be run without spectators in 2020:

As a result of the no-spectators announcement, racing will hold all four of its major events spectator-free this year. In June and September, both the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York and the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville were run without fans, and the Preakness Stakes is scheduled to be run spectator-free at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Oct. 3. In a normal year, those three races comprise the sport’s Triple Crown.

The DRF also gave more context on the selection of Keeneland for 2022:

Fred Hertrich, the chairman of the Breeders’ Cup board, which must approve all host sites, said in a release that the selection of Keeneland for the 2022 event was due in large part to the track’s inability to host fans this year. Keeneland is located in the heart of horse country, and its live race dates are major sporting and cultural events.

“Lexington’s local community of racing fans, businesses, and members of the Thoroughbred industry are the backbone of our sport, and we believe they deserve a second opportunity, in short order, to experience the event at its full potential,” Hertrich said.

Drew Fleming, the president and chief executive officer of Breeders’ Cup, said in an interview that “we owe it to that community to come back to Keeneland as soon as possible.”

CEO Fleming declined to speculate on how much money running without spectators will cost noting that “This was not a financial decision. This was the safe thing to do.”

Keeneland’s Fall race meet is scheduled from October 2 to October 24. The track has yet to announce whether fans will be allowed to attend. Keeneland canceled their Spring meet this year but ran a five day meet in July without spectators.

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