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Churchill Downs to reopen stables, race without spectators

FILE - In this May 6, 1978, file photo, Affirmed, jockey Steve Cauthen up, crosses the finish line to win the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky. Secretariat is the early 7-2 favorite for this weekends virtual Kentucky Derby, an animated race pitting all 13 Triple Crown winners on the day the Derby would have been held before the coronavirus pandemic postponed it. Citation, who won the 1948 Triple Crown, was made the 4-1 second choice. Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the 1977 and '78 Triple Crown winners, were each listed at 5-1 odds. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this May 6, 1978, file photo, Affirmed, jockey Steve Cauthen up, crosses the finish line to win the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky. Secretariat is the early 7-2 favorite for this weekends virtual Kentucky Derby, an animated race pitting all 13 Triple Crown winners on the day the Derby would have been held before the coronavirus pandemic postponed it. Citation, who won the 1948 Triple Crown, was made the 4-1 second choice. Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the 1977 and '78 Triple Crown winners, were each listed at 5-1 odds. (AP Photo/File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs will open stables at the track and training center in phases starting May 11 before races are run during its spring meet without spectators.

The historic track postponed the Kentucky Derby last month from May 2 to Sept. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will mark the first time since 1945 horse racing's marquee event will not run on the first Saturday in May.

The opening of stables closed since Dec. 31 for winter renovations has been being delayed several times. The spring meet was scheduled to open last Saturday.

A statement from Churchill Downs said Kentucky state officials approved opening the stables under strict guidelines to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Racing will begin after track officials evaluate its incoming horse population and load-in procedures and spectator-free until government officials approve their return.

“The health and safety of our horsemen, staff and community remains paramount,” track president Kevin Flanery said. “Strict compliance with our comprehensive COVID-19 Action Plan and social distancing guidelines is our responsible duty to effectively contain the virus.”

The track’s plan includes:

— Masks to be worn before entering and at all times on the grounds;

— COVID-19 testing and medical screening. Those who don’t comply or fail the screening will be denied entry and asked to self-quarantine per CDC guidelines.

— Color-coded wristbands for everyone on the grounds to validate passing that day’s screening.

Horsemen and employees must practice social distancing procedures, with jockeys adequately spaced out in the jockeys’ room. Daily on-site check-ins to screen individuals residing on the backside will be established along with quarantine protocols.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called the track’s plan “one of the most detailed we have seen about specific security checks that everybody has to go through and be temperature-checked, to masking to having a very limited group that is there.”