- The 2020 Belmont Stakes will be run on June 30 at the shortened distance of 1 1/8 mile around one turn.
- The Belmont is typically the last–and longest–of the Triple Crown races contested over a 1 1/2 mile track.
- The 2020 Belmont will be run 11 weeks before the Kentucky Derby (September 5)
2020 is shaping up to be a completely unprecedented year on a macro level and has also shaken up plenty of long standing ‘traditions’ in the process. Nowhere has this been more evident than the sports world where schedules and rules are in the process of being revised while competing before empty seats (save for a smattering of sex dolls, at least in Korean soccer) becomes the norm.
Horse racing is a good example of this. It was already pretty strange with the Kentucky Derby moved to September 5 from the traditional ‘first Saturday in May’ date and the Preakness pushed back to October 3. Now the Belmont Stakes has come in to completely shake up the Triple Crown races. In most years, the Belmont is the final of the Triple Crown series as well as the longest. One of the major challenges of the event is the 1 1/2 mile distance which will be the longest that three year olds have ever faced. This year, that’s all changed.
The 2020 Belmont Stakes will be run on June 20 and the distance shortened to 1 1/8 mile. As the Daily Racing Form points out, this means that the Belmont Stakes will be run 11 weeks before the Kentucky Derby and 15 weeks before the Preakness. Historically, the Belmont Stakes is run five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. The major stakes race season will also end in unusual fashion with the Breeders’ Cup Classic set for November 7. That had a lot to do with the revamped Belmont Stakes as New York Racing Association (NYRA) President and CEO Dave O’Rourke explains:
“Because of the way the race is now positioned, it’s the right distance. We respect the tradition of it, but it’s not the third leg in a five-week series anymore for 3-year-olds early in the year. It’s a 3-year-old race in June before any of the others, so the distance to us makes sense. It’ll be a big field. This will be the year everything goes out the window. If there is ever a time to do something different it’s this year.”
The Belmont’s purse has been cut from $1.5 million to $1 million due in large part to the shut down of the Resorts World Casino which generates 38% of all NYRA purses. And as has become de rigueur for sports in the pandemic era the event will be run in front of 33,000 empty seats. It will be the first time since 1926 that the race has been run at a distance other than 1. 1/2 miles. Belmont Park is scheduled to reopen in early June.
NYRA President O’Rourke is happy that the event is coming off when it is:
“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times. 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. … 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 coda of this unprecedented Belmont is that it has been relegated to the status of a de facto Kentucky Derby prep race. The top four finishers will earn 150, 60, 30 and 15 qualifying points toward a spot in ‘The Run for The Roses’
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