By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: … and the last shall be first. The Belmont Stakes, traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown, will this year be run as the opening race in the series for the first time on Saturday June 20.
America’s oldest Classic will be run this year at a distance of 1m1f instead of its usual 1m4f, taking place behind closed doors at Belmont Park as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
With all three legs of the Triple Crown having been postponed to later dates in 2020, this is a Triple Crown like no other. In its new slot, the $1m Belmont precedes the Kentucky Derby on September 5, four weeks ahead of the Preakness on October 3.
Revised US Triple Crown for 2020
With New York governor Andrew Cuomo having given the go-ahead at the weekend, racing is set to resume at Belmont Park on Wednesday June 3 following the coronavirus shutdown.
There has been no thoroughbred racing in New York, a staple of Sky Sports Racing nightly US coverage, since Aqueduct on Sunday March 15. Racing was suspended on March 19.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced details of the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes on Tuesday morning.
“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, NYRA president/CEO.
“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.”
Trainer Barclay Tagg has already he is likely to target the revised Belmont with leading Kentucky Derby fancy Tiz The Law, a fluent winner of the G1 Florida Derby on his most recent start on March 28.
“I really don’t like shortening it up like that because at a mile and one-eighth the race may no longer be considered a classic,” Tagg told the Daily Racing Form.
“I know I wouldn’t mind going a mile and one-half with him right now. My big plan, if it works out, would be to run him in the Belmont, Travers and the Derby.”
The Belmont Park spring/summer meet starts on June 3 and continues until Sunday July 12. A stakes schedule has been published, with G1 action kicking off on June 6 with a rescheduled Carter Handicap, postponed from Aqueduct on April 4.
There will be a total of six Graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes card, four of them at the highest level.
Absent from the stakes schedule are the Belmont Derby Invitational and the Belmont Oaks, the G1 events that form the opening legs of the Turf Triple Series. An announcement regarding dates will be made in the coming weeks.
• Find out more about the Belmont Stakes at belmontstakes.com