Triple Crown Could Benefit From Virus-Caused Rescheduling
Horse racing is “getting it right with its newly reconfigured Triple Crown,” which will see the Belmont Stakes lead off the proceedings for the first time, as the three-race event had been “temporarily reinvented in a way that could be really good,” according to Pat Forde of SI.com. There will be “better spacing between races … and hopefully fuller and more competitive fields for all three legs.” There also will be “some freshness to the musty series.” The Belmont, which depending on the status of a Triple Crown contender “sometimes is huge and sometimes a complete anticlimax, gets first run,” while the Preakness, “forever the overlooked middle child, has a chance to stage a grand finale.” Meanwhile, the Kentucky Derby will “retain its cachet as America’s greatest race while also experiencing some fleeting humility over its new place in the Triple Crown batting order.” Depending on the status of the NBA, NHL and MLB, the Belmont “could well command a prime spot on an otherwise sparse sporting calendar” (SI.com, 5/19).
ALL A MATTER OF TIMING: In Baltimore, Childs Walker reports industry observers expected the Belmont to fall first in the Triple Crown “after the postponed dates” for the Derby (Sept. 5) and Preakness (Oct. 3) were announced. A move to later in October “was impractical given that the Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland.” However, the decision to make the race shorter (1 1/8 miles as opposed to the typical 1 1/2 miles) was “more controversial given the Belmont’s historical standing as a unique endurance test for 3-year-old thoroughbreds” (BALTIMORE SUN, 5/20). In N.Y., Joe Drape notes there is “some precedent for a topsy-turvy Triple Crown schedule,” as the Preakness from ’23-32 “preceded the Derby.” Churchill Downs officials picked Sept. 5 for the Derby “in hopes that shelter-in-place rules will be relaxed enough by then to welcome fans” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/20). However, in DC, Cindy Boren writes the move makes the Belmont “more of a prep race than a Triple Crown event, essentially a Kentucky Derby qualifier” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/20).
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: On Long Island, Andrew Gross notes this marks the “first time in Triple Crown history that the Belmont Stakes will be run first,” and NBC is planning “three hours of live coverage” from the race on June 20. The race will carry a $1M purse instead of the usual $1.5M, as the “altered circumstances, including the loss of video lottery terminal revenues from casinos, has forced NYRA to adjust its purses.” The race will be part of NYRA’s spring/summer meet at Belmont Park that begins June 3 (NEWSDAY, 5/20). NYRA President & CEO Dave O’Rourke said that fans who have “already purchased tickets for this year’s Belmont Stakes -- and the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival -- are entitled to a full refund or can receive a credit toward next year” (DRF.com, 5/19).
BAD BLOW FOR RACING INDUSTRY: In New Jersey, Stephen Edelson writes the “deconstruction of the Triple Crown has been a particularly cruel blow to an industry already reeling.” Instead of a five-week stretch “that can draw huge ratings and create some of the year's most memorable moments, the races will be drawn out over 3 1/2 months.” While it is a “great sign that the Belmont Stakes will be run, the seismic shift in the racing calendar could not have come at a worse time for an industry struggling to rebound from a disastrous 2019” (ASBURY PARK PRESS, 5/20).