Churchill Downs to delay reopening of stables

Horse Racing

Churchill Downs is delaying reopening its stables and training center until March 31 after consulting local public health officials amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The home of the Kentucky Derby is expected to provide an update next week about horse racing’s marquee event, scheduled for May 2, and its upcoming spring meet.

Churchill’s stables have been closed for annual winter renovations since Dec. 31 and were scheduled to open Tuesday. The track stated in a release Saturday night that the safety and health of guests, employees and participants remain a primary concern and that it’s taking every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Nadal won the $1 million Rebel Stakes — a major Kentucky Derby prep — by 1½ lengths at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“That was a pretty impressive performance. He just laid it down,” trainer Bob Baffert said Saturday at Santa Anita Park in California, where he later watched another one of his horses, Charlatan, lead all the way and blow away four rivals in the $57,000 allowance race for 3-year-olds.

Both tracks conducted their racing slates while closed to the public.

Baffert canceled plans to attend a horse sale in Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic. He recently returned from races in Saudi Arabia, where he said he kept his distance from people and constantly wiped down surfaces.

“It’s just weird what’s going on in the world,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I never realized we’re so vulnerable. This is scary times.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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