If this were a normal year the horse racing world would be enjoying one of the most exciting weeks of the season, as horses arrive at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore and take their last gallops in preparation for the Preakness Stakes (the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown) on Saturday. But as race fans around the globe have realized- nothing about this spring is normal.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, racing has had to make significant adjustments to its annual calendar, and at this point the only fixed Triple Crown race on the horizon is the re-scheduled Kentucky Derby, set for September 5th – the First Saturday in September.
The other two legs of the Triple Crown – the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, originally scheduled for May 16 and June 6, respectively – are currently in limbo.
The Stronach Group (which operates Pimlico) stated last week that it was still exploring several possible dates for the Preakness, and the re-scheduling of the Belmont Stakes by the New York Racing Association will be contingent on state government’s plans to re-open the economy in the region hardest hit by COVID-19.
Adding to the whirlwind of uncertainty, key Kentucky Derby preps such as the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby were not run on their original date of April 4th but may be contested in the coming months.
And to muddy the water a little more, major races for 3-year-olds usually held after the Triple Crown, such as the Haskell Invitational Stakes in July and Travers Stakes in August (The Midsummer Derby), are still on the horizon.
Tie all of these threads together, and the 2020 Triple Crown season will be one for the history books. The traditional Derby–Preakness–Belmont order through May and June is disrupted, and that’s disappointing – but the setback can also provides an opportunity to be creative.
How should the Triple Crown play out over the next six months? Should the order still be followed, even if it’s in the fall? Should the Preakness be held before the Derby for the first time in nearly a century? Should the Belmont go first, and if so, should it be held at its usual mile and a half distance?
How should the other major 3-year-old races be best rearranged? And how does the November Breeders’ Cup World Championships fit into the process, if at all?
We at the Daily Racing Blog aren’t going to handicap this Maiden Race, but rest assured, when a decision is made and a definitive schedule is handed down, we will let you know. Be safe out there.