(Churchill Downs / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
According to multiple sources, Churchill Downs — which has yet to open its’ backside barn area to either horse or man due to the worldwide pandemic and the onslaught of the deadly virus COVID-19 — is making all the final preparations to be ready to allow horses and horsemen/horsewomen access to the famed barn area on or around April 28.
Over the past couple of weeks, Churchill Downs has been developing and implementing protocols and testing procedures that will allow one of the world’s foremost leaders in Thoroughbred racing to be ready to open and accommodate the arrival of both horses and humans.
The testing stretched all the way to New Orleans at the end of last week. All trainers and backside workers at the Fair Grounds — which is also owned by Churchill Downs and had to end its’ meet prematurely due to the outbreak — were required to go through a screening process.
The individuals were tested for temperature, and to see if they either have or have had the Covid-19 virus, at some point. All the information was collected and passed along to track officials in Louisville and inserted into a data base.
Most of those trainers that are currently stabled at the Fair Grounds are people that have traditionally travelled North by this time of year and have established stables at Churchill Downs.
If trainers who are currently stabled at other jurisdictions are interested in relocating to Louisville and Churchill Downs, they and their staffs will have to be tested and approved, as well, according to information that “The Pressbox” has received.
According to our sources, Churchill Downs has been working to develop a well-defined plan that was outlined and assisted by a well-respected, international consulting firm, which specializes in these types of possible contamination issues and containment plans and protocols.
The sources all confirmed that the “plan” has been shared with both the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and with the office of Governor Andy Beshear.
At this time, Churchill Downs is waiting final approval from the Governor’s office and the Racing Commission to make the decision on exactly when to open the gates to the backside.
Our sources confirmed, though, that the Governor and his top officials have been in touch with Churchill Downs’ officials and has been working on the possible roll-out plan.
Once the horses, trainers, grooms and hot walkers are on the premises, we are told that Churchill Downs — along with the Kentucky Racing Commission — will finalize the exact date when live racing will resume. The plan is to reintroduce live racing without spectators on the premises.
However, according to our sources, the track is looking at a possible resumption of racing in or around May 15.
Churchill Downs’ and Kentucky Racing Commission officials were unavailable to comment or confirm.