The entire sports world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, so why should thoroughbred racing be any different? The Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds that normally ends with the Belmont Stakes will instead begin there Saturday afternoon following the juggling of the schedule.
The 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes will be historic
The Triple Crown for thoroughbreds traditionally begins with the Kentucky Derby in early May, followed by the Preakness Stakes later in the month and then the Belmont Stakes at the beginning of June.
With the potential extent of the COVID-19 pandemic still unknown, the decision was made early this spring to push all three races back on the calendar. The Kentucky Derby was moved to Sept. 5, and the Preakness was pushed back to Oct. 3. Though the Belmont Stakes was also postponed, the delay was only by two weeks, so it now stands as the start of the Triple Crown for the first time.
There will be two other significant adjustments for the Belmont on Saturday:
- The traditional distance of 1.5 miles has been reduced to 1 1/8 miles, which moves the starting gate up to the backstretch.
- With bans on large gatherings still in place, there will be no fans in attendance at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Rather than the usual 150,000 fans, only essential workers and a handful of media will witness the race in person.
The field and TV information for the Belmont Stakes in New York
The Belmont Stakes will start at 5:42 p.m. Eastern time and be shown by NBC. With the summer solstice officially beginning at 5:43 p.m., the race will technically start in the spring and conclude in the summer.
The favorite at morning-line, 6-to-5 odds is Tiz the Law, a New York-bred colt trained by 82-year-old Barclay Tagg. The Florida Derby champion has won four of his five races impressively. However, the only New York-breds to have won the Belmont Stakes were Ruthless (1867), Fenian (1869), and Forester (1882).
Here’s the lineup of entries, beginning with the inside post position:
- Tap it to Win (6-1 odds), with jockey John Velazquez
- Sole Volante (9/2), Luca Panici
- Max Player (15-1), Joel Rosario
- Modernist (15-1), Junior Alvarado
- Farmington Road (15-1), Javier Castellano
- Fore Left (30-1), Jose Ortiz
- Jungle Runner (50-1), Reylu Gutierrez
- Tiz the Law (6-5), Manuel Franco
- Dr Post (5-1), Irad Ortiz Jr.
- Pneumatic (8-1), Ricardo Santana
Max Player, trained by Linda Rice, has not raced since a Grade III stakes race Feb. 1, making for the longest layoff in the field. Fore Left, trained by Doug O’Neill, hasn’t run since being shipped back from a Feb. 6 race in Dubai.
At the other extreme, Sole Volante raced at Gulfstream Park on June 10.
What else to watch for in the Triple Crown opener
Weather is not expected to be a factor at the 152nd Belmont Stakes. Although the temperature could be in the high 70s at post time, the shortened duration of the race helps mitigate safety concerns. There could be a brief shower during the afternoon, but a generally dry spring in the metropolitan New York area means that the dirt track will be able to absorb whatever precipitation may arrive.
Besides being aired on NBC, the race will be streamed on the NBC Sports website.
There is a $1 million purse at stake Saturday, down from the $1.5 million up for grabs in the 2019 Belmont Stakes.