Kentucky Derby to be Held Without Spectators

The Kentucky Derby is set to take place on September 5, but it will run without fans in attendance for the first time in 146 year history of the race. Officials from Churchill Downs announced on Friday, officially ending months of speculation regarding fan attendance.

The Kentucky Derby traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in May, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the race to be postponed until Labor Day weekend. Churchill Downs officials believed that a later date would allow fans to be in attendance, but that is no longer the case.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear gave the race track clearance to run the race in front of a limited capacity just a few weeks ago, but an increase in COVID-19 cases in Louisville has once again changed things. The CDC and local health officials both pushed Churchill Downs to reconsider, and this announcement was made to maintain public safety.

In 2015, Churchill Downs set a record when more than 170,000 fans attended that race, and there was great anticipation for the race in 2020 as well. Now, the park will be shut down to guests, but the race still has extreme importance in the horse racing community.

Derby Week is set to begin on September 1, and Churchill Downs is expected to keep the regular weekend schedule. The Kentucky Oaks will be held on September 4, and it is always a terrific preview of the big race on the following day.

The Indianapolis 500 just made a similar decision to run their race without fans this past weekend, and they were applauded by state and local health officials. Churchill Downs had the authority to make the final decision, but they chose to err on the side of caution. 

Huge Financial Implications

The decision to host the 2020 Kentucky Derby without any fans will have substantial financial implications for the race track and Churchill Downs Inc. Churchill Downs announced that they understood the financial impact of this decision, but they were already expecting a huge loss in revenue with a limited number of patrons.

One of the biggest sources of revenue for Churchill Downs is the selling of premium reserve seats. There are about 60,000 premium reserve seats available to patrons, and there is a long waiting list to purchase these seats.

Last year, Derby Week brought more than $5.4 million, which was more than 1 percent of all revenue seen by Churchill Downs Inc in 2019. The loss of revenue from Derby Week in 2020 will affect the bottom line, but Churchill Downs makes money in various ways.

The Kentucky Derby is also a massive day for sportsbooks throughout the United States, and last year there was a record of $250.9 million in the total betting handle. $165.5 million of that betting handle was placed on the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

Tiz the Law a Huge Favorite

Tiz the Law has been the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby for months, and the odds continue to shrink as it gets closer to race day. Tiz the Law is a perfect 4-0 so far in 2020, and all of the victories have been extremely convincing. 

Some sportsbooks have Tiz the Law listed at even money, and other horses aren’t even close in betting odds. Things could change in the days leading up to the Derby, but it appears that Tiz the Law will begin the race as the heavy favorite. 

Sportsbooks are still expected to see plenty of betting action on the race, even though fans won’t be in attendance.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.