Coronavirus forces Kentucky Derby postponement

Los Angeles (AFP) –


This year's Kentucky Derby has been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, race organisers confirmed on Tuesday.

It is the first time the US racing showpiece has been postponed since 1945, when the race was eventually held in June due to World War II.

Traditionally held each year on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, this year's race will now take place on September 5.

Churchill Downs chief executive Bill Carstanjen said Tuesday the escalating COVID-19 crisis had left race organisers with no choice but to delay the race.

"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," Carstanjen said.

"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."

The Kentucky Derby is the first and most prestigious leg of US racing's Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

The Derby is renowned for its huge crowds, with more than 150,000 fans thronging Churchill Downs racetrack watch the spectacle in recent years.

It is the latest high-profile sporting event to be postponed or cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Several racing events in other countries have also been hit, with Britain's Grand National at Aintree being cancelled on Monday.

Sport in the United States has ground to a virtual standstill, with basketball, soccer, baseball and ice hockey all halting or delaying the start of their respective seasons while college basketball's "March Madness" tournament has been cancelled.

The Masters golf tournament at Augusta has also been postponed due to the crisis as authorities impose regional lockdowns and limits on large gatherings of fans to halt the spread of the virus.