There will indeed be a 2020 version of the Triple Crown, though in this rendition the last shall be first.
The New York Racing Association announced the $1 million dollar Belmont Stakes will be contested June 20th at Belmont Park without fans. That makes this years Belmont the opening leg of the series that has been shuffled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the new date and a reduction from last year’s purse of $1.5 million, the 152nd Belmont Stakes will also be run at a shorter distance. Normally the race is 1.5 miles, around two turns. This year it will be 1 1/8 miles around one turn, according to NYRA‘s May 19th statement.
Originally scheduled for June 6th as the final race in the five-week-long Triple Crown chase for 3-year-olds, the Belmont Stakes will kick off a series typically known as the spring classics that will now span 15 weeks from the spring through the fall.
In response to the pandemic, the Kentucky Derby was shifted from May 2nd to September 5th at Churchill Downs, while the Preakness Stakes was pushed back from May 16th to October 3rd at Pimlico Race Course.
Even with a new date, the Belmont Stakes figures to attract a quality field. Florida Derby Winner TIZ THE LAW is aiming toward the race. Trainer Bob Baffert has also said if the Belmont Stakes is held on June 20th he would send a horse to New York, with the most likely candidate being the undefeated CHARLATAN.
The announcement of the new date on the calendar for the Belmont Stakes comes three days after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said racetracks in the state can re-open June 1st without fans in attendance.
NYRA tracks have been closed since March 15th, after three days of racing without fans, as New York City and Nassau County, where Aqueduct and Belmont Park are located, emerged as an epicenter for the spread of coronavirus.
NYRA is expected to announce a date for the opening of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park and a full stakes schedule shortly. The Daily Racing Blog will keep you posted.