LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - With Kentucky Derby 146 postponed until September, people in the world of horse racing have put their preparations on hold too.
Saturday would have been opening night for the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs, but the track’s green gates are all locked amid the coronavirus outbreak.
At this time last year, communications specialist Jennie Rees said she was already on the job-creating Derby-related content. Rees often works with the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association (HBPA) and as a contributor for WAVE 3 News.
“I was getting up to catch some of the horses that would have been going onto the track as early as 5:30,” Rees told WAVE 3 News. “I’d be out in the morning on the backside talking to trainers, and jockeys and owners. During Derby week, I was actually working for WAVE 3, lining up interviews.”
This year, Rees says she’s missing the ‘perfect’ weather, the excitement and the people.
“And I’ll be honest, I miss the money too,” Rees said. “Derby time is the one time of the year I can really leverage my work now as a communications specialist. It goes a long time towards what I make for the year.”
For Rees and many others, like trainer Dale Romans, the Derby means income.
Romans is normally back in Kentucky by April in time for spring meets at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Typically, Romans spends his winters in Florida running horses in prep races and other derbies. However, Roman’s told WAVE 3 News that he’s still in Florida where a few races are happening at Gulfstream Park but with no spectators.
“My plan is, as soon as they let me back into Kentucky with my horses, I’m headed that way,” Romans said.
Romans said he’ll have more time now to train his top Derby prospects, Dennis’ Moment and Attachment Rate, but he’s still worried about what comes next.
“The Kentucky Derby is the engine behind everything that we do, and when you go messing with that I mean who knows how we’re going to come out of this,” Romans said.
Romans and Reese both said they’re hopeful for horse racing to make a comeback in Kentucky this fall.
“Kentucky Derby in September is better than no Derby at all,” Rees said.
In a press release Thursday, Churchill Downs announced plans to celebrate the first Saturday in May despite the derby’s postponement. Churchill Downs will host a day-long at-home party to raise $2 million for COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.
Fans can tune in to a special broadcast on WAVE 3 from 3 to 6 p.m. EST, which will feature the 2015 Kentucky Derby that began American Pharaoh’s historic Triple Crown run. WAVE 3 News’s local coverage of the 2015 race will air from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Additionally, WAVE 3 News will broadcast Churchill Downs’ first ever virtual horse race, The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown. The event will feature the 13 past Triple Crown winners and use algorithms to determine the probability of their potential finishing positions.
Beginning April 30, fans will be able to visit www.KentuckyDerby.com to choose their favorite horse to win the virtual race and also join Churchill Downs in making a charitable donation to COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.
A full day of online festivities is planned on May 2, designed to encourage the perfect interactive Kentucky Derby party at home.
Churchill Downs will join the Kentucky Derby Museum and other partners to offer virtual tours, Derby cocktail and fascinator-making instructions, ideas for party decorations, kids’ crafts, Derby-inspired recipes, an at-home Derby fashion contest and much more.