By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Two of America’s most prestigious venues are gearing up to resume racing after the coronavirus shutdown later this month, when racing is set to return to Churchill Downs on Saturday May 16 for a belated behind-closed-doors start of the Kentucky Derby venue’s Spring Meet.
Santa Anita, the number one venue in California, has also published a stakes programme ready for a planned restart on May 15 – pending approval from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Officials at Churchill Downs announced on Thursday night that the Spring Meet will belatedly begin beneath the Twin Spires for the weekend of May 16-17, after which the iconic Louisville track will continue four days a week (Thursday to Sunday).
Although the Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September 5, vice president of racing Ben Huffman is compiling a revised stakes schedule.
After a long impasse, on Wednesday Churchill Downs received approval from state officials to reopen its mammoth stable areas under strict coronavirus guidelines.
Racing will continue on a spectator-free basis until government approves fans returning to the historic venue.
According to a report in the Daily Racing Form, Santa Anita intends to reopen on a similar spectator-free basis on May 15 to begin a programme featuring 29 stakes races before June 21.
The track last raced on March 22 before being deemed a “non-essential business” and closed by county health officials, who will have to rubberstamp any planned reopening.
The highlight of the new schedule will be a June 6 programme featuring a pair of G1s in the postponed Santa Anita Derby and the Gold Cup (former Hollywood Gold Cup), though both will have reduced purses. The G2 Santa Anita Oaks will also be run on June 6.