Let the races begin. After several delays because of coronavirus concerns that ended up postponing the Kentucky Derby to Labor Day weekend, Churchill Downs opened its stables for the first time since winter renovations began in December.
Racing will resume on May 16 without spectators, an interesting challenge for a storied track accustomed to fans cheering the thoroughbreds beneath the Twin Spires.
The horses’ arrival for training is encouraging for a sport that’s mostly been on hold, along with everything else, because of measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Last weekend’s Arkansas Derby without fans offered a long-awaited glimpse of live action, if not some hints of which colts to watch when the 146th Kentucky Derby runs on Sept. 5. Seeing the backside barns slowly fill up at horse racing’s most famous track, even in colder-than-expected weather for May, was another positive step toward resuming the routine that horsemen and track workers thrive on.
More work lies ahead for Churchill Downs and an uncertain Triple Crown. The Run For The Roses wasn’t held on the first Saturday in May for the first time since 1945, and it remains to be seen whether the new date will draw the same crowds and attention. Likewise for the Triple Crown, where the Preakness and Belmont Stakes could precede the Derby instead of following it.
As those scenarios play out, Churchill Downs prepares for the sweet sounds of horses galloping on the track.