Today's Free Picks
All Picks for Santa Anita & Pleasanton
The Belmont Stakes, traditionally the last and longest leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, will be run June 20 and at the shortened distance of 1 1/8 miles around one turn, the New York Racing Association announced Tuesday. That means the Belmont – typically run at 1 1/2 miles five weeks after the Kentucky Derby – will be run 11 weeks before the Kentucky Derby (Sept. 5) and 15 weeks before the Preakness (Oct. 3).
传奇sfNo spectators will be permitted at the race.
传奇sfAlso, the NYRA announced Tuesday that opening day of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet would be June 3. There will be 25 cards of racing through July 12, mostly on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule before racing moves to Saratoga on July 16. First post most days will be 1:15 p.m.
传奇sfSince Churchill Downs made the announcement that the Kentucky Derby would be moved from May 2 to Sept. 5, NYRA had been planning to run the Belmont Stakes during its spring/summer meet.
传奇sfThe traditional Triple Crown spacing of five weeks for three races was further disrupted when The Stronach Group announced Saturday that the Preakness would be run Oct. 3. With the Breeders’ Cup Classic slated for Nov. 7 at Keeneland, the Belmont “at a mile and a half in mid-October did not feel like a good idea,” NYRA president and CEO Dave O’Rourke said Tuesday.
“Because of the way the race is now positioned, it’s the right distance,” O’Rourke said about shortening the race to 1 1/8 miles. “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.”
Trainer Barclay Tagg said earlier this week he plans to run Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law in the Belmont. Tiz the Law won the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park last fall.
传奇sfTrainer Bob Baffert, via text, indicated Tuesday he would consider both Nadal and Charlatan for the Belmont. Both colts are unbeaten after winning split divisions of the Arkansas Derby.
传奇sf“It would be both or one,” Baffert wrote. “Depending on how they are training.”
传奇sfOthers who have been mentioned by their trainers as possible for the Belmont include Sole Volante, Max Player, Basin, Farmington Road, Gouverneur Morris, and Modernist.
The Belmont Stakes is limited to 16 starters, according to the Triple Crown nomination form.
The purse of the Belmont has been cut from $1.5 million to $1 million. NYRA has not generated any handle from wagering or from the Resorts World casino that has been shut down since late March and 43 cards of racing will have been lost at Aqueduct and Belmont since March 15.
The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926. Prior to that, it had been run at four other distances including 1 1/8 miles in 1893-94 when the race was held at Morris Park. It had been run at 1 3/8 miles from 1896-1903 and 1906-1925. The race also has been run at 1 1/4 miles and 1 5/8 miles.
传奇sfSince it is being run before the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes essentially becomes a prep race for the Derby. The top four finishers of the Belmont will earn qualifying points (150-60-30-15) to the Derby.
传奇sfO’Rourke said fans who have already purchased tickets for this year’s Belmont Stakes – and the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival – are entitled to a full refund or can receive a credit toward next year.
传奇sfNYRA released the remainder of its stakes schedule for the abbreviated 25-day meet. There will be 40 stakes – at least one each day – worth $7 million in purses. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there were 58 stakes scheduled worth $18.65 million for a 51-day meet from April 24 through July 12.
The June 20 card topped by the Belmont Stakes also includes three other Grade 1 stakes – the Acorn, Woody Stephens, and Jaipur – as well as the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge and Grade 3 Wonder Again.
The Grade 1 Carter, typically run at Aqueduct in April, was rescheduled for June 6. Its purse was cut from $400,000 to $250,000. Both that race, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester, which has been lengthened from a mile to 1 1/16 miles, are on the same card and could serve as stepping-stones to the Grade 1, $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap, which is now July 4. The Met Mile tops a card that includes the Grade 1 Manhattan, Grade 2 Suburban, and Grade 3 Poker.
The Grade 1 Ogden Phipps is now June 13.
Among the graded stakes not carded for this summer meet are the Bed o’ Roses, Belmont Derby, Belmont Gold Cup, Belmont Oaks, Brooklyn, Dwyer, John A. Nerud, Man o' War, Mother Goose, Peter Pan, and Sheepshead Bay.
NYRA, in a press release, said the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks, both Grade 1 turf races for 3-year-olds, will be run in 2020 at a date to be determined.
NYRA had to make significant cuts to its stakes schedule as well as its overnight purse structure to account for the loss of casino revenue – which provides 38 percent of the purses – and lack of handle having not raced for two months.
传奇sf“One of our goals here is to provide a continuous program to support the industry, so we’re very focused on maintaining the overnights while keeping a respectable stakes program,” O’Rourke said. “I believe we’ll have a stakes each day. Some of the regional tracks aren’t going to run stakes, so we give a few people a chance to get some black type.”
While opening up Belmont is the immediate priority, O’Rourke said that NYRA is working with the Gaming Commission and with Saratoga County health officials to try to open the Oklahoma training track in Saratoga the first week in June.