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A letter from Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason

March 20, 2020

To our Industry, Fans and Central Kentucky Community,

The decision to cancel this year’s Spring Meet and April Sale due to the alarming spread of COVID-19 has been agonizing for the Keeneland family. We understand the devastating impact this has on the Thoroughbred industry, our Central Kentucky community who cherishes this tradition, and our employees who pour their hearts into this organization. We share the disappointment and frustration of our fans and horsemen – a silent April at Keeneland still has not sunk in. However, we knew this decision was the only way to effectively mitigate the risk of spreading this deadly virus. The speed at which this pandemic has continued to spread, and recent events unfolding within the racing industry reaffirms what was a difficult decision. This is a global health crisis and we must be responsible in our actions.

This past Monday, March 16, we found ourselves at a critical moment. The Federal Government issued a recommendation limiting gatherings over 10 people, just as horsemen from across the country were making preparations to ship to Keeneland. Many of these individuals were traveling from areas defined as “hotspots” for the virus. This convergence of participants from various states, as well as the inability to comply with social distancing within our dormitories and backstretch, put the health and safety of our horsemen and participants in great jeopardy. In compliance with recommendations from government and health officials, we cancelled our meet.

With the spread of the virus continuing, there are tough times ahead; however, we will get through this together. While doing our part to protect against the spread of this virus, we must also look to the future and restore hope and stability for an industry that is suffering. Since Monday, we have taken swift action and began working with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and our track partners on the Kentucky circuit to explore opportunities for additional Keeneland race days during this non-traditional year for our industry. When it is safe to do so, and in concert with community and health officials, we look forward to conducting world-class racing with the full participation of our horsemen, participants and fans. Keeneland applauds the efforts of the KHRC at their March 19th meeting to convene the Racing Dates Committee to examine these possibilities and we look forward to these continued conversations.

This fall also offers tremendous potential to rebuild and recover from these trying times. Our team continues to examine all opportunities to ensure that our worldwide marketplace has the certainty, consistency and platform to showcase the best yearlings and breeding stock in the world set against the backdrop of Keeneland’s star studded fall meeting.

While we may not be racing this April, you can trust that the Keeneland team is working tirelessly to protect our industry, restore normalcy to the marketplace, and provide our participants, community and fans with hope for brighter days ahead.

- Bill Thomason, Keeneland President & CEO