Keeneland VP discusses arrangements for unusual summer meet

Keeneland VP discusses arrangements for unusual summer meet
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
When the leadership at Keeneland realized that the track's normal April meet was not going to go down as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group knew they had to start making alternate arrangements for the meet that includes the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes.

While Churchill Downs submitted and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear approved a plan to have fans at the Kentucky Derby’s new September date, Keeneland never considered such a measure according to Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales.

“It’s what every business is dealing with, what every community is dealing with,” Elliston said in conference call with media on Tuesday. “And that is how far can you go based on the knowledge that you have? And the worst thing that can happen, and unfortunately there are parts of our country that are experiencing this is, perhaps they went too far.”

All who enter the grounds for the summer meet will be subject to a temperature check and will have to wear masks. The general office, touring operations and the Keeneland Library are all closed.

Elliston pointed out that the Saturday event is not the last one planned at Keeneland for 2020, and said the procedures put in place are laying groundwork for future events.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Elliston said. “Create a foundation we can build on that creates confidence for everybody who’s participating.”

Keeneland’s other 2020 events include the Breeders’s Cup Classic, a race meet in October, the Breeders’ Cup and sales in September and November.

As for who will be allowed in for the Saturday races, Elliston said that representatives for each horse’s ownership will get to enter for the first time since the pandemic began.

“This is a hotbed for ownership of horses,” Elliston said of central Kentucky. “Many are bred here and raised here and those breeders are also very active on the racing side. We wanted to do what we could to get them here.”

Elliston said the procedures put in place happened after conferring with the state’s other tracks, including Churchill Downs and Ellis Park.

“All of us have kind of a working group that have been looking at a set of protocols that we are using every day on our backside,” Elliston said. “As you know, each of our operations… have been homes to lots of people and lots of horses that are conducting business every single day. So those protocols I think served us well in terms of going to the governor and going to our local officials.”

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