By Jon Lees
USA: The 2020 Breeders’ Cup will take place behind closed doors after organisers announced there would be no fans at Keeneland due to the continuing COVID-19 outbreak.
Only essential personnel and participants will be admitted to the two-day fixture on November 6 and 7 under strict guidelines and protocols put in place as part of Breeders’ Cup’s health and safety plan,
The decision followed discussions with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, the racetrack, local health officials and independent medical experts to establish conditions under which major sporting events can operate safely.
The Breeders’ Cup also confirmed there would be no cut in prize-money with total purses and awards worth $31 million, the same level as in 2019. A $4m increase, announced earlier this year, has been postponed to 2021.
“The decision to hold this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships without fans in attendance was not made lightly,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup.
“However, after many months of careful deliberation, planning and consultation, it has become abundantly clear that this is the right decision in order to proceed with our event while still protecting the collective health of our community.
“Despite many major racing events reducing purses significantly, we are proud to be able to maintain 2019 purse levels to support our nominators and horsemen during this challenging year.”
At the same time it was revealed that Keeneland would be the host site in 2022, with next year’s championships set to return to Del Mar in California.
Fred Hertrich, Breeders’ Cup Board chairman said: “Lexington’s local community of racing fans, businesses and members of the thoroughbred industry are the backbone of our sport, and we believe they deserve a second opportunity, in short order, to experience the event at its full potential.
“As such, we are proud to award Keeneland the 2022 World Championships and look forward to bringing the Breeders’ Cup back to Lexington in just two years’ time.”
All 2020 ticket holders will receive a full refund and will be granted first access to purchase the same or similar tickets for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland.