Scratched: Kentucky Derby now set for September due to virus

FILE - In this May 4, 2019, file photo, Flavien Prat rides Country House to victory during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Luis Saez on Maximum Security finished first but was disqualified. Country House has been retired because of a foot ailment. The 4-year-old developed laminitis in his right front foot and was hospitalized last summer to treat the condition. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
FILE - In this May 4, 2019, file photo, Flavien Prat rides Country House to victory during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Luis Saez on Maximum Security finished first but was disqualified. Country House has been retired because of a foot ailment. The 4-year-old developed laminitis in his right front foot and was hospitalized last summer to treat the condition. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – 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.

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.

However, Baffert added, “Until they get their arms around this virus, we're all day-to-day”

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.