Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Smack in the middle of a multinational weekend of "Win and You're In" races for November's Breeders' Cup World Championships, the organizers announced those races will be run without spectators Nov. 6 and 7 at Keeneland.
The $31 million in purses will stand as promised. And, as a consolation prize to the Kentucky track and the Lexington, Ky., area, the Breeders' Cup announced it will return to Keeneland in 2022.
The announcement came as qualifying events for the Keeneland races were being held in Ireland, France and Kentucky on Saturday and Sunday.
Like many major sports events facing COVID-19 pandemic issues, Keeneland and Breeders' Cup worked for months with state and local health officials to put together a plan that would allow spectators into Keeneland, a small facility that was well-packed with fans the only other time it hosted the event, in 2015.
"After many months of careful deliberation, planning and consultation, it has become abundantly clear that this is the right decision in order to proceed with our event while still protecting the collective health of our community," Drew Fleming, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup, said Saturday.
"Despite many major racing events reducing purses significantly, we are proud to be able to maintain 2019 purse levels to support our nominators and horsemen during this challenging year."
Breeders' Cup board chairman Fred Hertrich said the decision to return to Keeneland in two year's time will support the community in which the organization is based.
"Lexington's local community of racing fans, businesses and members of the Thoroughbred industry are the backbone of our sport, and we believe they deserve a second opportunity, in short order, to experience the event at its full potential," Hertrich said.
Fans who hold tickets will receive refunds and have preferred access to 2022 tickets. NBC and the Breeders' Cup both promise expanded fan outreach to enhance the remote viewing experience.
The Breeders' Cup returns to Del Mar in 2021. No venues have been announced beyond 2022.