Churchill Downs

The Churchill Downs grandstand will once again welcome fans for Kentucky Derby 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Derby returns to its historic start date of the first Saturday in May in 2021 after being postponed because of COVID-19 last year, eventually being run in September with few fans in attendance.

The track expects to be at 40% to 50% capacity in its grandstand when this year's edition of the race is run at Churchill Downs on May 1. Track officials, in light of some state restrictions being lifted, say they are exploring ways to increase Derby capacity by another 10%, but have yet to make any announcement on that. Mitigation measures are not expected to be relaxed.

The Derby will look more like itself, but the ongoing pandemic will still mean changes from what fans have been accustomed to. If conditions surrounding the pandemic improve, Churchill Downs says it will update fans via its @KentuckyDerby Twitter account. They can also follow Derby updates at WDRB, and this story will be updated if information changes.

Below are some questions and answers regarding policies and protocols that Churchill Downs expects will be in place come Derby Day.

Q: Will the Derby take place on the first Saturday in May?

A: We do not anticipate moving our traditional date of the first Saturday in May. Last year, racing was not permitted in the state of Kentucky at all on the first Saturday in May so we had to move the Derby in compliance with those restrictions. This year, we don’t anticipate any restrictions on running the race on its traditional date. 

Churchill masks required

Signs of the times: Face mask orders are posted across Churchill Downs for Kentucky Derby week.

Q: Will masks be required at this year’s Derby? 

A: All indications suggest that masks will be required at Derby 2021 based on the projections of public health experts. We will continue to operate within the guidance and recommendations issued by local and state health officials as well as the CDC.

Q: Why aren’t General Admission tickets on sale?  Why not open the infield going for people to spread out?

A: Based on current public health guidance, tickets are currently limited to those that are assigned to a specific seat and that can be socially distanced from other groups of attendees. If the circumstances surrounding the spread of COVID-19 improve, we will consider selling general admission tickets.

Q: What is being done to protect the backside workers that live on-site at Churchill Downs? What precautions will be taken for when they return? 

A: Just as the rest of the team at Churchill Downs Racetrack, the backside now operates under increased health and safety protocols. When backside workers return to the track in mid-March, a number of COVID-19 mitigation procedures will be in effect including:

  • 100% requirement for protective face coverings 
  • Daily medical monitoring of all backside workers 
  • Additional hand washing & sanitizing stations in place
  • Social distancing guidelines in place
  • Controlled access areas in place to limit unauthorized entry into the backside 

Q: What tickets are available to the 2021 Kentucky Derby and Oaks?

A: Based on current public health guidelines, we expect seating capacity for the 2021 Kentucky Derby to be extremely limited. At this time we are working to accommodate guests with contractual seating. If the circumstances surrounding the spread of COVID-19 improve, then we will sell more reserved seats and consider selling general admission tickets. To be notified if and when additional tickets become available, please subscribe to the Kentucky Derby’s email list through the box on this page or follow @KentuckyDerby on social media. You may also be able to purchase tickets which become available from contractual guests through our official ticket resale site at or through our official experience package partner at

Q: Will there be any changes to tickets for this year’s Derby?

A: This year, reserved seats to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks will be all-inclusive. This change allows us to improve our guests’ experience by reducing the amount of time spent in line, eliminating the need for cash transactions for food and beverages and providing the opportunity to try a greater variety of food. Further information can be found at

Q: Will my tickets be refunded if COVID causes the Derby to be canceled or postponed?

A: We don’t anticipate any restrictions on running the Kentucky Derby this year on our traditional date of the first Saturday in May. 

If you purchase tickets directly through Churchill Downs via Ticketmaster or the Official Kentucky Derby Ticket Exchange, and spectators are not permitted, you will be refunded the full amount paid less any processing, handling or shipping fees. Churchill Downs’ full ticket & admissions policy can be found here

Derby Experiences has worked with its hotel, tour & transportation partners to offer an improved refund policy in 2021. If you purchase tickets through our official experience package partner, Derby Experiences, and spectators are not permitted, you will receive a credit for 100% of your payment towards the next scheduled running of the Kentucky Derby. For more information visit

If you purchase tickets from any other source, you will be subject to that source’s refund policy.  Churchill Downs is unable to process refunds for tickets purchased through a third party.

Q: When will tickets to the rest of Derby Week and the Spring Meet go on sale?

A: Derby Week Tickets and Spring Meet Tickets are now on sale.

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