The Breeders’ Cup became the latest major racing event going spectator-free, announcing it will go without fans for its upcoming event, Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland in Lexington, KY. At the same time, the Breeders’ Cup announced Keeneland will play host to the 2022 event.

Breeders Cup-Keeneland 2020
Keeneland played host to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the first time in 2015. It gets the 2022 Breeders’ Cup along with this year’s event Oct. 6-7. (Image: John Snell/Team Coyle)

This means that all four major American race events held in 2020 will go without fans. June’s Belmont Stakes and last week’s Kentucky Derby both went off without spectators. Next month’s Triple Crown finale – the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes – won’t have fans at Pimlico Race Course. The Breeders’ Cup reluctantly falls in line with its Triple Crown counterparts.

“The decision to hold this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships without fans in attendance was not made lightly,” Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Drew Fleming said in a statement. “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.”

The decision to give Keeneland the Breeders’ Cup two years from now came because the Lexington track got saddled with a fan-free event this year. The event rotates around the country every year. Fred Hertrich, the chairman of the Breeders’ Cup board, said in the release that the citadel of horse racing deserved a mulligan.

Horse Country Back in the Breeders’ Cup Gate for 2022

“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,” Hertrich said.

Breeders’ Cup officials said the decision came after talks with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, along with local and state health officials. Beshear spent much of 2020 navigating a tightrope between one of his state’s primary industries and the effects of a global pandemic that hasn’t spared Kentucky.

As a result, only “essential personnel and participants” may enter. That includes owners, who – like everyone else allowed in – are subject to “strict guidelines and protocols.” Breeders’ Cup officials said they would elaborate further on those in the coming weeks.

Purses Remain at 2019 Levels

Along with that, officials shelved a planned $4 million purse increase for 2020 until 2021. That means total purses remain at $31 million, putting on hold a planned $2 million increase to the Turf purse, a $1 million increase to the Classic and a $1 million increase to the Dirt Mile. The Classic purse remains $6 million, the Turf $4 million and the Dirt Mile $1 million.

Keeneland, meanwhile, gets the Breeders’ Cup for the third time in 2022. It received its first Breeders’ Cup in 2015. The track’s fall meet opens Oct. 2 and runs through Oct. 24 and is expected to go without fans. An announcement on that front is pending.

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