The Belmont Stakes Will Soon Be The First Leg Of The Triple Crown This Year But Will Look Entirely Different Than It Has In The Past

horse racing feet on turf

iStockphoto / quentinjlang

I knew that the Triple Crown of Horse Racing would be back this year and assumed it would look different than years past but it was news to me that the Belmont Stakes in New York is just three weeks away and it will be entirely different from every other year.

The Belmont Stakes on Long Island is traditionally the anchor of the Triple Crown of Horse Racing. It is third and final race after The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont is also traditionally the longest race of the three legs. The Derby is 1 1/4 mile, the Preakness is slightly shorter at 1 3/16 mile, and the lengthy Belmont Stakes runs at 1 and 1/2 miles.

Belmont Park where the Belmont Stakes is MASSIVE. I was there along with 90,000 other fans in 2015 when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown and broke a 37-year drought. It was one of the loudest sporting events I’ve ever attended when American Pharoah made that final turn to the home stretch. 90,000 people on their feet screaming at the top of their lungs. It was absolutely electric.

This year will be incredibly different. The Belmont Stakes is shorter and it will run first/before the other two legs of the Triple Crown. There will also be no fans in attendance. Here’s the rundown of changes from an ESPN report:

The Belmont Stakes will be run before the Kentucky Derby and Preakness for the first time and take place at a shorter distance. It will lead off the Triple Crown on June 20 in New York with no fans in attendance and at a distance of 1 1/8 miles instead of the 1 1/2-mile “test of the champion” that has been the race’s trademark for nearly a century.

“The way it fits in the calendar, it’s a completely different race than the traditional Belmont would be,” New York Racing Association president and CEO Dave O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I think we’re going to have a big field. I think it’ll be a really competitive field. I think the dynamics of the race are different.”

The three Triple Crown races will be run out of their traditional order for the first time since 1931. The Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to Sept. 5 and the Preakness from May 16 to Oct. 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic that has upended the sports calendar. (via)

The Triple Crown of Horse Racing is usually run across a span of 5 weeks in the early Summer. These horses are raised and trained to compete in these very specific races. Then they’re most often rushed out to start breeding and make a fortune. With the Belmont in mid-to-late June and the Preakness in early October the training schedule will be completely altered and it’s unclear what effect this will have on the horses.

Trainer Mark Casse says some horses will benefit from the altered schedule and others will struggle with the change. According to ESPN, the NYRA said the change in distance was made “to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training” which makes some sense but I don’t really have a sense for what the overall schedule of these horses looks like so I can’t add my two cents here at all.

For a full rundown of the changes, you can click here to head on over to ESPN’s Chalk.