ELMONT, NY – In an historic move, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced Tuesday that the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes (G1) will be held Saturday, June 20, at Belmont Park and cover 9 furlongs.
When the pandemic forced several major tracks – including Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park – to temporarily cease live racing, officials were forced to postpone and adjust their schedules. That meant postponing each leg of the Triple Crown until it was safe to return, albeit sans spectators.
“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times,” said NYRA President & CEO Dave O’Rourke. “While this will certainly be a unique running of this historic race, we are grateful to be able to hold the Belmont Stakes in 2020. Thanks to our partners at NBC Sports, fans across the country can look forward to a day of exceptional thoroughbred racing at a time when entertainment and sports are so important to providing a sense of normalcy.”
The Kentucky Derby (G1) was moved to September 5, and the Maryland Jockey Club recently announced that the Preakness Stakes (G1) will be held on October 3. Because the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are on the calendar for November 6-7, and due to the Triple Crown-airing NBC also nationally broadcasting Notre Dame fall football games, many in the industry felt that the only option left for NYRA was to make the Belmont the first leg of the Triple Crown.
“June Saturdays at Belmont Park always offer terrific racing,” said Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports & NBCSN. “We’re excited to return on June 20 with a three-hour broadcast featuring the 152nd Belmont Stakes.”
Another challenge that NYRA officials faced was deciding what distance to make the race. The Belmont Stakes has been traditionally held at 1 1/2 miles since 1926, but officials opted to shorten it because this 3-year-old crop has not been able to race as often as a normal year or even attempt the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby distance.
Despite the outcry of several keyboard jockeys when the announcement was made, there is historic precedence for change. The first Belmont Stakes, run in 1867, was contested at 1 5/8 miles at Jerome Park, and the 1893 and 1894 editions were held at 1 1/8 miles at Morris Park Racecourse.