By Duane Fonseca
This year’s American Triple Crown will have a different look after the New York Racing Association announced Tuesday the Belmont Stakes would replace the Kentucky Derby as the first leg of the series for the first time in history.
The Grade 1 Belmont Stakes will be run on 20 June at Belmont Park near Queens in the eastern US state of New York. The NYRA made the announcement a day after NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was keen to restart sporting activity in the state following the Covid-19 shutdown.
The Grade 1 Kentucky Derby has traditionally served as the first leg of the American Triple Crown and was due to take place on 2 May, with the second leg, the Preakness, initially scheduled for 16 May. Both races have witnessed a massive postponement of dates with 5 September being touted as a possible date for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness likely to be held on 3 October.
The Belmont Stakes had been initially pencilled in for 6 June, but will now be run over a shorter trip two weeks later with the action taking place behind closed doors. The Belmont is widely considered the toughest of the Triple Crown races because of its 2,400m distance, but this year’s renewal will be over an 1,800m trip. The Grade 1 Kentucky Derby is contested over 2,000m, while the Grade 1 Preakness is a 1,900m affair.
The NYRA said the distance change intended “to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3yos in training”.