Things will look a little different the first weekend of November at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky. For starters, the grandstands, paddocks, and other areas typically accessible to visitors will be virtually empty. Every entrance into the track will be outfitted with hand sanitizer stations.
Breeders' Cup authorities decided weeks ago that the risk of COVID-19 infection was too great to allow spectators at the Championship Series. While millions of people around the world will be watching live broadcasts of the 14 races Friday and Saturday, entrance to the track itself will be limited to essential personnel.
Those few who are allowed into the proceedings must follow strict precautions that are identical to the guidelines established for Kentucky's restaurants, bars, and event spaces by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The protocols are part of the "Healthy at Work" plan devised under the leadership of Dr. Richard Greenberg, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, along with other health experts.
Each entrant must wear a mask or face covering except when eating. Free COVID-19 testing is available—and recommended—for everyone on site. Certain participants, including Keeneland staffers, horse trainers, and their personnel, are required to take the test and be demonstrated to be Coronavirus free. These measures will be accompanied by daily health checks for everyone who enters the track. Inside the grandstand area, physical distancing will be strictly enforced with seating areas provided through reservation and six feet of distancing per individual.
Jockeys are not off the hook either. In-state jockeys must have had a negative COVID-19 test by November 4. Out of state and international jockeys must arrive in Lexington by the 4th and have received a test by 7 p.m. that day, unless they've had a test within the last 72 hours at their previous location with a negative result. Jockeys are also requested to get a flu vaccine.
If you do happen to get into the grandstands for the races, things will be different there as well. If you were hoping for a mint julep, it will come individually wrapped in plastic, as will all concessions. The track is also encouraging bettors to wager via app or online rather than going to the betting windows. All the while, Keeneland cleaning staff members will be regularly disinfecting the common areas with EPA approved sanitizers.
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