Because of the coronavirus, the Derby had to be postponed until the fall. They have rescheduled the run for the roses for Sept. 5.
But this year, the Triple Crown is going out of order. The Belmont Stakes will be the first out of the gate, set to run on June 20. It will be in New York with no fans in attendance at the track.
It will take place before the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes for the first time. It will also be run at a shorter distance. Instead of the usual 1 1/2 miles, the race will be 1 1/8 miles.
“The way it fits in the calendar, it’s a completely different race than the traditional Belmont would be,” New York Racing Association president and CEO Dave O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I think we’re going to have a big field. I think it’ll be a really competitive field. I think the dynamics of the race are different.”
The three races have not run out of order since 1931. The Preakness Stakes was also moved back from its original date of May 16 to Oct. 3.
Baffert Happy To Run
One of the biggest names in horse racing is Bob Baffert. He is seen walking behind the horses every year, right before entering the starting gate. He has won two Triple Crowns in his career.
“I’m just happy we get to run,” Baffert said. “I’m just fortunate that they didn’t cancel any of them. A couple of months ago, it didn’t look good.”
The Belmont Stakes was originally scheduled for June 6 but was pushed back. It suffered the least amount of change in schedule than any of the other races.
“The Belmont, running after that, the test of champions is: ‘How tough is your horse? How can he handle it?'” said Baffert, who trained 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2018 winner Justify. “Now, a mile and a half, they can handle it easier the first time. It wouldn’t be as difficult as it would be after running those other two races.”
Horse racing has just made its way back to most states after the coronavirus pandemic. For now, it’s unsure whether the other two legs of the crown will be able to have spectators either.
With or without spectators, jockeys and trainers are happy to return to racing.
“We didn’t have dates for a while. Every day seemed like a week,” New York Racing Association president and CEO Dave O’Rourke said. “As long as we were able to start at Belmont the first week of June, we thought we could hold to this June 20 date with a different race in a sense of distance and whatnot.”
One thing hasn’t changed, and that is that all eyes still remain on the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.