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Carolina Cup horse racing event has been canceled as COVID-19 fears continue

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John A. Carlos II

83rd running of the Carolina Cup on April 1, 2017 at Springdale Race Course in Camden, SC. John A. Carlos II/Special to The Post and Courier

The Carolina Cup, an annual horse racing and a partying tradition that draws thousands of revelers to the Springdale Race Course in Camden, has canceled its March 28 event amid rising unease about a dangerous strain of coronavirus.

In a post on the event's Facebook page, the Carolina Cup noted it was canceling the 86th running of the race "following the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and local Kershaw County health authorities."

"While the decision was not made lightly, the [Carolina Cup Racing Association] puts the safety of our patrons, athletes, residents of South Carolina and staff first," the post reads. "We value the families and many sponsors who have supported this important tradition for decades."

The race said patrons will be emailed about ticket refunds, or their purchase can be rolled over to next year.

This is only the second time in the more than eight decade history of the race that it has been interrupted.

The announcement of the cancellation came just a day after race organizers had said the event would go on.

As of late Wednesday, there were 10 presumptive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Carolina, and seven of those were in Kershaw County.

As the highly contagious COVID-19 has sparked a pandemic across the globe — there have been more than 130,000 cases and 4,500 deaths around the world — officials in the U.S. have touched off a wave of cancellations and postponements of major events.

The NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The SEC, ACC and the rest of the power conferences have canceled their college basketball tournaments. The massive South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas was called off, and the SEC has suspended all of its regular season sporting events through at least March 30.

In Columbia, the Five Points Merchants Association and the City of Columbia announced that the landmark St. Pat's in Five Points festival — which typically draws 30,000 or more people, would not happen on March 21, and would be postponed until a later date.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who in recent days has been advocating for large events — most notably St. Pat's in Five Points — to consider postponing or canceling, lauded the decision of organizers and officials in Camden for canceling the horse race.

"This is a global pandemic with a particularly dramatic impact in Kershaw County and their economic sacrifice will be to the benefit of millions of South Carolinians," Benjamin says. "The organizers of the Cup are doing the right thing especially with a lack of clear direction from the state or federal government."

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