The third Saturday in May in normal times is when the racing world generally focuses on the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico. In this topsy-turvy time, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attention that afternoon will instead be on the return of racing to the site of the Triple Crown’s first jewel: Churchill Downs.
Receiving permission last week to belatedly commence its 2020 spring meet on May 16, Churchill Downs has released the first condition book covering the first 13 days of the stand through June 5.
While there are no stakes scheduled for opening weekend, fans of big-league racing will nonetheless rejoice. Following the recent end of Oaklawn’s season, Churchill will provide a highly appealing dish to the betting menu following many weeks of fans sustaining on a steady diet of Florida racing.
Because of staggered ship-in regulations Churchill has instituted, fans should expect the opening weekend cards to be populated primarily by horses stabled at in-state tracks and training centers as well as Fair Grounds in New Orleans. A few Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs-based runners could also run right off the van. Oaklawn-based shippers will begin stabling at Churchill following opening weekend.
Post time each racing day during the meet will be 1 p.m. ET, with the first two cards drawn early enough in the week (Tuesday and Wednesday) for bettors to get a head start on handicapping.
Racing will then be held on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis, with a holiday card on Memorial Day also scheduled.
With no racing at Keeneland this spring, 2-year-old racing in the state and elsewhere is behind schedule. The first maiden races for juveniles, who will race Lasix-free this year under new state regulations, will begin the racing week of May 21-25.
The condensed stakes schedule kicks off on Saturday, May 23, when five stakes highlight the card.
The featured event is the $150,000 Matt Winn (G3) for 3-year-olds, the first race in a revised Road to the Kentucky Derby prep schedule this summer which will award qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1).