Coronavirus roundup: Kentucky Derby, French Open postponed until September

Associated Press

Change does not come easily to the Kentucky Derby.

Fans sip mint juleps, don fancy hats and dress clothes and sing to the melancholy strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the thoroughbreds step onto the track on the first Saturday in May. It has always made the Derby as much a piece of Americana as a horse race.

Rescheduling of the Kentucky Derby marks the first time the rite of spring won’t be held in May since 1945.

The country’s longest continuously held sports event thrives on this tradition, especially its date on the calendar.

That changed Tuesday.

Churchill Downs postponed the Derby until September, the latest rite of spring in sports to be struck by the new coronavirus along with the Masters, March Madness and baseball season. Instead of May 2, the race will be run Sept. 5, kicking off Labor Day weekend.

“It’s good that they didn’t cancel it,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has several top contenders that could earn him a record-tying sixth Derby victory.

It’s the first time the Derby won’t be held on the first Saturday in May since 1945, when it was run June 9. The federal government suspended horse racing nationwide for most of the first half of the year before World War II ended in early May, but not in time to hold the opening leg of the Triple Crown that month.

The date change still must be approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission at its meeting Thursday.

2nd PGA major delayed

First the Masters, now the PGA Championship.

The PGA Championship is being postponed, a person involved in the discussions said. It was scheduled for May 14-17 at Harding Park in San Francisco. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the decision has not been announced.

It follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that events of 50 people or more not be held for eight weeks. That would last until the Sunday before the PGA Championship.

There was no indication when the PGA Championship would be played, or if it would remain in San Francisco.

Augusta National announced Friday that the Masters would be postponed.

French Open rescheduled

The French Open was postponed for about four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, juggling the tennis calendar by shifting from May to September.

The French tennis federation said Tuesday it will hold its 15-day clay-court event at Roland Garros in Paris from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4, instead of May 24 to June 7, “to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in organizing the tournament.”

Soccer facing ‘biggest crisis’

Taking a tough decision that became more inevitable by the day, the governing body of European soccer postponed its marquee championship for one year on Tuesday.

Euro 2020 became Euro 2021 in a major shift for an international soccer calendar that is on lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak and with no clear end in sight.

“It is the biggest crisis that football faced in history,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a television interview from his native Slovenia. “We all know that this terrible virus that is all across Europe made football and all life in Europe quite impossible. We knew we have to stop the competitions.”

The tournament that was due to open on June 12 in Rome is now scheduled for next year from June 11 to July 11, in the same 12 host nations.

Meantime, the Copa America was also postponed until 2021 because of the outbreak.

IOC member: Cancel games

Moving ahead with the Olympics this summer in Tokyo would be “insensitive and irresponsible,” says Canadian ice hockey player and International Olympic Committee member Hayley Wickenheiser.

In the most direct comments yet by an IOC member, Wickenheiser said on her Twitter account that the games shouldn’t be held.

“Athletes can’t train,” she said. “Attendees can’t travel plan. Sponsors and marketers can’t market with any degree of sensitivity.”

Wickenheiser sits on the IOC athlete committee, and is a former member of its medical committee. Her comments come just hours after the IOC’s executive board, of which she is not a member, said it remained dedicated to holding the 2020 Summer Games from July 24 to Aug. 9.

Other news

The Southeastern Conference has canceled sporting events for the rest of the season, becoming the last of the Power Five conferences to cancel all competition.

... International Ice Hockey Federation chief René Fasel says it’s only a matter of time before the executive council is left with no choice but to cancel the men’s world championships because of the pandemic.

... The USGA has canceled the first two amateur championships on its 2020 schedule.

... National Letter of Intent signings for college athletes have been suspended until April 15.