LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Staff members have been busy preparing for Keeneland's first Summer Meet after April's meet fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic. There are several changes made to ensure people stay safe and healthy through the five days of racing.
One of the most significant changes is there won't be any fans watching from the stands. Only essential personnel are allowed on the grounds. This includes jockeys, trainers, horse owners, and staff members. That is still about 800 people, but officials say there is plenty of space for physical distancing.
Bob Elliston, vice-president of racing and sales, says health and safety are a priority. There will be health screenings and temperature checks when people enter the grounds, and everyone will have to wear masks. This even includes the jockeys right up until they get on their horses. They can lower masks while racing but must lift them back up when they've crossed the finish line.
While there won't be any fans, they can still join in on the fun by visiting the 'Keeneland at Home' page on Keeneland's website.
"You can get free racing programs. You can download those, so you can understand who's racing and handicap those races. With your phone, you can get an app, the Keeneland Select app. You can sign up and make wagers from there," said Elliston.
The races will be streamed lived from Keeneland's YouTube and Facebook pages. Elliston says some restaurants, like Jeff Ruby's, are hosting watch parties as well.
While fans will be missed, Elliston says they hope the precautions they're taking will help make sure they return to Keeneland in the fall.
"I think that's why we're going about our business in a conservative fashion now, so we can build upon it and not have to take steps backward," he said. "If we get further along and we understand how this meet hopefully goes very successfully, and we don't have any significant exposure to the virus, then we can add some more to that."
The first race each day is at 1:05 p.m. The meet ends Sunday, July 12.