Every industry has been touched by the effects of the current worldwide pandemic. The world of horses and horse racing has been no stranger to these impacts.
Since the pandemic shut the world down in February and March, every industry has felt those reverberations. Quickly gaining on six months of this strange new world here in the Lowcountry, we too have felt the world shifting. We have changed our policies and what services are available to our riders and guests to keep everyone safe and healthy. When the nation started closing down and canceling major events, it was no surprise that horse tracks and horse races started to shut down and cancel in the footsteps of the NBA, NFL, MLB, and the PGA. Every industry has felt the shock waves of these effects, and all of us at home have felt the tremendous loss these decisions have caused.
Out of the safety of our nation and its people, we recognize the importance of these decisions, but there is plenty still left to mourn. What should come as a surprise is that even though it drastically changed, the industry of horse racing didn't actually shut down. In a recent interview, racing analyst Randy Moss mentioned that even though the world has changed and we've adapted to an online world, the world of horse racing can't be stopped. He said, "You can't water or feed horses through Zoom. They can't get veterinary care through Zoom!" So, those behind the scenes, almost 1500 people to every 1000 horses at each American race track according to Moss, have kept the industry afloat. The needs of these living and breathing creatures depended on quick action, which is exactly what happened. Decisions were made to keep both the industry and the industries employees alive and well.
This doesn't mean that every race and event went on as normal. Once things started to shut down it was almost like a domino effect, and it was felt globally.
One of the largest blows our industry saw was the postponement of the Kentucky Derby. For the first time since 1945, it was pushed back to a different date. After weeks and months of waiting, Churchill Downs announced that the race was going to be moved to September 5th. With this change, the entire set up of the Triple Crown was completely changed. For the first time in its 152 years, the Belmont Stakes started the Triple Crown instead of ending it. On July 20th, the race still went on as planned. Here too, no fans were present. Tiz The Law took first. The hope that the Kentucky Derby would be able to have fans in the stadium was still in the works when the date was pushed back. Many believed that by September, things would be looking much different.
During June and early July of this year, it was announced that 14% of the Derby's capacity would be allowed to attend in person. Social distancing and masks along with frequent hand washing and sanitizing were going to be strongly suggested. Whether masks were going to be enforced or not was never solidified, according to CBS news. This decision and the uncertainty of masks were met with skepticism. As weeks went on and the spike in Coronavirus cases went up drastically, the executives of Churchill Downs decided to change their minds. According to CNN, the race will still be run, but without a crowd. The 14% capacity was still 23,000 fans, and that was too much for comfort. Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear, has praised the decision according to CNN. Although it is a tragic disappointment and loss, it is understood. Following the Kentucky Derby will be the Preakness Stakes on October 3rd, officially finishing the Triple Crown of 2020.
The derby was one of the last big sporting events to see such a change. 2020 has been a huge blow to every industry and sports lovers alike. Throughout Europe, with pandemic numbers looking more promising, they are hopeful for races that were postponed to the fall. Many of these races will be run much later than they ever have been before. They hope that by pushing them back they will be able to amp up even more excitement and be able to have some, even if it is limited, crowd engagement. What has 2020 done to your connection to the world of horses? Comment below - we want to hear from you! Until next time, stay safe and stay hopeful.
Middleton Place Team