For the first time in its history, horse racing’s Triple Crown will kick off with the Belmont Stakes. The New York-based event is officially set for June 20 and is traditionally the third and final jewel in the Triple Crown. However, with the coronavirus postponing the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to the fall, all eyes will be on Belmont this spring.
Following approval from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying that sports may resume in the state behind closed doors, the race will be held without fans in attendance. The running of the course itself will also be modified from a distance of 1 and 1/2 miles to 1 and 1/8 miles and the purse has been knocked down from $1.5 million to $1 million. Despite the changes, organizers are excited to bring racing to fans at an unprecedented time.
“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times,” said Dave O’Rourke, President and CEO of the New York Racing Association. “While this will certainly be a unique running of this historic race, we are grateful to be able to hold the Belmont Stakes in 2020. Thanks to our partners at NBC Sports, fans across the country can look forward to a day of exceptional thoroughbred racing at a time when entertainment and sports are so important to providing a sense of normalcy.”
The Belmont’s June 20 scheduling is only two weeks later than its traditional date, however, fans and jockeys will endure a much longer wait to complete the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby – typically held the first Saturday in May as the season’s kick-off event – will now be held on September 5. Officials have said they are hoping to have fans in attendance at Churchill Downs that weekend but acknowledged there is ongoing uncertainty.
Baltimore’s Preakness Stakes, which typically runs shortly after the Kentucky Derby as the second leg of the Triple Crown, will conclude the 2020 event. It is currently scheduled for Saturday, October 3.
Racing at Belmont Park will officially get underway starting June 3 and last through July 12 with the Belmont Stakes undoubtedly being the venue’s top event.