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Whether you like your horse racing on turf, dirt or you aren’t fussy, the 2020 Flat season is guaranteed to be unique in uncertain times.
Every postwar renewal of the Kentucky Derby (G1) has taken place on the first Saturday in May, but Churchill Downs announced their premier race wouldn’t be run until Labor Day weekend in September this year. As America’s most famous race, nobody connected with Churchill Downs relishes the prospect of staging the run for the roses behind closed doors.
Other US Triple Crown events – the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes (G1) on the edge of New York City – have also been postponed. That means the major races for 3-year-olds, usually held over a five-week period in late spring and early summer, are now pencilled in for the fall.
Across the Atlantic, however, the organizers of Royal Ascot are hoping to stage their five-day festival and annual highlight of the UK Flat calendar with no paying audience. It should be stressed that Royal Ascot going ahead at all is subject to clearance from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and national government.
Just like the US Triple Crown events, the five Classics that are the UK equivalent have been postponed to a later date. How the pattern of these and other Group 1 races in the British Isles will look remains to be seen but, according to Mansion, these events are due to go ahead – just at different and as yet to be determined times in the year.
There is the distinct possibility that the Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks won’t be run at Epsom Downs. The racecourse is not enclosed and keeping the public away from the track could prove logistically difficult. As with the Triple Crown stateside, it is vital for the thoroughbred breeding and bloodstock world that the Classics are staged in Britain and Ireland.
The alternative is having a lost generation which includes exciting racehorses such as Godolphin’s unbeaten 2000 Guineas favorite Pinatubo and 2020 Florida Derby (G1) hero Tiz the Law, who heads the Kentucky Derby betting after his Gulfstream Park victory behind closed doors.
Being denied their place in sporting history would be a great shame. In the case of Pinatubo, he was given a higher BHA rating as a juvenile than the mighty Frankel. No 2-year-old colt has had such lofty expectations for a quarter of a century.
Pinatubo was the undisputed champion juvenile on either side of the Irish Sea, with trainer Charlie Appleby bold enough to run in him the Emerald Isle. He landed the National Stakes at The Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend in facile fashion before a routine victory in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.
Tiz the Law is bidding to become the fifth Florida Derby winner to be first past the post in the Kentucky Derby since 2013. Maximum Security thought he had done the double last year, only to be disqualified controversially at Churchill Downs for interference and placed down the field by stewards.
While Tiz the Law will be looking to avoid such agony, it reinforces what a key trial the Florida Derby is.
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