Belmont Stakes Set for June 20th as Firs​​t Leg of Triple Crown

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Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Nicole Bello/Getty Images/AFP

We are getting more sports back! The Belmont Stakes will run on June 20th and serve as the first leg of the Triple Crown.

This is the first time that this race will open the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes will be shorter than usual and without fans in the stands. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced that the race’s traditional length of 1½ miles will be shortened to 1⅛ miles.

According to NYRA, the distance adjustment was made “to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.”

A Very Different Triple Crown

Traditionally the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes was originally scheduled for June 6th.

Per ESPN Stats & Information, this race has been the second leg of the Triple Crown in some years but never the first. The Belmont Stakes has been run at 1½ miles since 1926.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to make significant changes to the usual schedule and race format.

“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times,” New York Racing Association President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said.

“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 Kentucky Derby, usually the first leg of the Triple Crown, was rescheduled from May 2nd to September 5th. As for the Preakness Stakes, it was supposed to take place on May 16th but it was moved to October 3rd.

Photo by MATT CAMPBELL / AFP

Why This Decision Was Made

Horse racing has become a bright spot in a sports-starved world and NYRA realized this. They will also open a training track in Saratoga Springs, New York ahead of their summer meet in mid-July.

Viewers have tuned in to the horse racing events from recent months. The resurgence of the sport has translated to the betting industry. The best sportsbooks, including BetOnline, Bovada, 5Dimes and Bookmaker have offered betting odds on the tracks that remained open throughout the pandemic.

The officials didn’t keep the traditional Triple Crown sequence intact because it would have placed the Belmont Stakes close to the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Not to mention that it could have forced it to compete with college football.

What impact will the Belmont Stakes have now that will kick off the Triple Crown? This remains to be seen and it will be very interesting, as very talented 3-year-olds could run it. Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law and Nadal and Charlatan (from the Bob Baffert barn), who each won a division of the Arkansas Derby, are all potential participants.

Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015 are two of the 13 horses that have won the Triple Crown.