The COVID-19 pandemic is changing sports as we know them. The PGA Tour will return soon without spectators in attendance. The NBA and MLB might have to finish their seasons in remote locations under strict quarantine. But the major U.S. sports aren’t the only ones undergoing drastic changes. Even horse racing will look much different when the Triple Crown finally begins in June. Instead of the typical order of events, the Belmont Stakes will come before the Kentucky Derby, but it isn’t the first time.
The Belmont Stakes will be the first race in the Triple Crown in 2020
The Kentucky Derby has been the first leg of the Triple Crown since its inaugural season in 1875. The order of events has always been Kentucky Derby first, Preakness Stakes second, and Belmont Stakes third, but that will be different this year.
When the Triple Crown starts this year on June 20, it won’t be at the Kentucky Derby. Rather, it will start with the Belmont. For over 100 years, the Belmont Stakes was the iconic site for hopeful Triple Crown finalists aiming to make history, but the dynamic will be switched for the first time in history.
The Belmont on June 20 will be followed by the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5., and the final leg of the Triple Crown will be the Preakness on Oct. 3. It won’t just be a major difference in terms of the order, though.
The Triple Crown is usually spread out between five weeks, but this year it will span across 15 weeks. It remains to be seen how the longer layoff will affect the horses.
The 2020 Belmont Stakes will be historic in many ways
The 2020 Belmont Stakes will be the 152nd running of the iconic race. However, it will be the first time the race leads off the Triple Crown, but that’s not the only way this year’s Belmont will be different from year’s past.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no spectators allowed at the 2020 Belmont. Most of the allure of horse racing is to watch the lightning-fast beasts race down the stretch while you anxiously clutch your bet ticket, but that will have to be done from home this year.
The Belmont will also be a shorter length in 2020. Normally the longest race of the Triple Crown at 11/2 miles, the 2020 Belmont will be shortened to 11/8 miles. It will mark the first time since 1926 the race will be shorter than 11/2 miles.
The Belmont Stakes actually came before the Kentucky Derby in 1867
The Kentucky Derby is heralded as the most famous horse race in the world every year. It’s regarded as the birthplace of horse racing, but the Belmont Stakes is actually the oldest of the three Triple Crown races.
The Belmont first ran in 1867. It wasn’t until eight years later that the Kentucky Derby was founded. The Belmont is also the fourth-oldest horse race in American history. For as much praise as the Kentucky Derby garners, the Belmont Stakes should be seen as just as important historically, if not more so.
The Belmont, not the Kentucky Derby, is the true birthplace of the Triple Crown. When the Belmont kicks off the first leg in 2020, it will be the first time, but the Triple Crown originally started with the Belmont Stakes in 1867.
All historical info courtesy of BelmontStakes.com