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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By NYRA PRESS STAFF – The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced the 152nd renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, to be contested at nine furlongs, will take place on Saturday, June 20 at Belmont Park as the opening leg of the Triple Crown for the first time in history.
To align with required health and safety measures implemented in New York to mitigate risk and combat the spread of COVID-19, the Belmont Stakes will be held without spectators in attendance.
“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.”
As the exclusive broadcast partner of the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown, NBC Sports will present three hours of live coverage from Belmont Park on Saturday, June 20 beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern.
“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.”
Traditionally contested at 1 1/2-miles and held as the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes will be run at a distance of 1 1/8-miles to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training. 
The revised date and distance for the Belmont Stakes follows the previously announced rescheduling of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, September 5 as well as the rescheduling of the Preakness Stakes from May 16 to October 3.
Initially contested at a distance of 1 5/8-miles at Jerome Park, the first Belmont Stakes was won by Hall of Fame filly Ruthless in 1867. For a two-year period in 1893-94, the Belmont Stakes was run at nine furlongs at Morris Park Racecourse with Comanche winning in 1893 and Hall of Famer Henry of Navarre victorious a year later. The 1 1/2-miles distance was established in 1926.
All Belmont Stakes Racing Festival (BSRF) tickets are subject to full refunds. Fans who purchased directly from the NYRA Box Office or a NYRA sales representative are asked to complete this web form to request a refund or account credit. Fans who purchased BSRF tickets through Ticketmaster will receive an email directing them to log in to their Ticketmaster account to request a refund or credit.
NYRA Bets is the official online wagering site for the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes, and the best way to bet the 2020 Belmont Park spring/summer meet. Available to customers across the United States, NYRA Bets allows horseplayers to watch and wager on racing from tracks around the world at any time. The NYRA Bets app is available for download for iOS and Android at
For more information, please visit

About the Belmont Stakes The Belmont Stakes is an American tradition inaugurated in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack and moved in 1905 to its familiar home at beautiful Belmont Park. As the traditional third leg of racing’s Triple Crown, the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” as the Belmont Stakes is known, has showcased many of history’s greatest thoroughbreds. Two of those Triple Crown triumphs have come in the last five years, with American Pharoah ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015 and Justify capping a perfect 6-for-6 career with a Triple Crown-clinching effort in 2018.   

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16 Responses

  1. Oh wow. Ugh, I’m pissed off. I wanted this to be late June. I think Honor A.P. could have made it if it were then, but now he can’t. He’s made for the track. He also needs points. It’s hard for me to care about the SA Derby now.

  2. Nonsense achieved! This was the perfect opportunity to skip a year and make the series for 4yo. It would show the industry has an ear. One of the biggest lies is that 3yo are the equivalent of Olympic athletes. They are equal to 9-10yo.

  3. Betsy, I thought you cared most about the horse? I know he can’t do SA and Belmont Stakes both, but he can still do one of them. Ponder this, if you’re the owner. Do you remain loyal to your home track, or do you run in the first leg of the Asterisk Triple Crown.

    1. John, of course I care most about the welfare of the horse… If I’m the owner, I run in what to me is still a Classic…which also happens be worth a million dollars. It’s not like the horse won’t ever run at SA again. I would have run HAP in an allowance and then point for the Belmont. Even at a mile and an eighth, the colt is made for Big Sandy, with his long strides. Right now I’m upset. I love Belmont, and even though I can’t be there in person, I wanted to see my favorite horse do how thing on my favorite track.

      On another note, what on earth is Linda Rice thinking? Now she’s going to skip the Matt Winn with Max Player so she can point for the Belmont. There’s about a month between races – she could make both easily. Now she wants to run this talented, but green, colt in the Belmont off of a very long layoff?

      1. Well, I’m kind of over it by now. The SA Derby is an historic race itself, and it’s hard to be upset with such a fantastic, appealing matchup between Authentic and HAP. I hope one day that HAP will make it to Belmont, and that I’ll be there to cheer him on!

        1. Bets, a one-turn mile and an eighth at Belmont would definitely help the long striding colt get into a rhythm without need to worry about jockeying for position into a turn. It’s only two weeks later and, money notwithstanding, it’s a classic!

          1. I KNOW ! Belmont definitely suits Honor A.P. more than SA,. but…he hasn’t had any issues out West, so there’s that. I think SA Derby is going to have a small field, so I suspect Mike Smith will try and keep the colt closer to Authenticate than he normally might.

            People are denigrating the Belmont now because of the shortened distance, but to me it’s still a Classic. Oh well – I read a partial quote from Shirreffs saying he wanted to be loyal to Santa Anita – it’s hard to argue, and he’s a great trainer, so……what can you do? I’ll root Max Player on now (not that I wasn’t, anyway) – he’ll love Belmont for sure.

            Have you heard anything about the Travers? Some friends on boards are saying it’s still going to be run at the end of August. While I’d love it, I can’t see that…

  4. Mark, tradition notwithstanding, does that by extention also mean three-year-olds shouldn’t race against older horses in the fall?

    A Derby is defined as a race for three-year-olds. I’d be fine for a series later in the season…the three-year-old season.

    1. Tradition is a false narrative. The Triple Crown races were not always run in the same order, at the same distances or even at the same racetracks. This is an asterisk year for everything. The new normal will have new rules. Maybe some will benefit the horse.

  5. Addendum to my final column:

    A Belmont Stakes at nine furlongs (regardless of the circumstances) is not a racing world in which I want to live.

    For shame, NYRA.

    1. For once we’re on the same page, TJ, but I’d have felt the same about any change in distance.

      The above announcement is yet another example of the short-sighted, self-serving thinking that plagues American Thoroughbred racing.

      Does this decision actually allay the fears of horsemen reluctant to compete in a delayed first leg of the Triple Crown at a different venue with the most demanding distance?

      The setting sequence switches could have been avoided with cooperation. Churchill Downs and Pimlico are gambling that the disease can be managed without another infection wave so that live attendance will eventually be allowed. Belmont has chosen to conduct their event while the window of opportunity still exists which should have been to their credit.

      Regardless of where and when the race is viewed, NYRA was obligated to maintain the quality of their product for its customers as well as for the contestants and their connections. The Belmont Stakes is an industry cornerstone; built on its reputation as “The Test of Champions.” To marginalize the impact of a victory going forward is to deprive a potential superstar the opportunity to become one.

      Would anyone argue that Secretariat’s greatest moment was not his record shattering performance in the 1973 Belmont Stakes? Why deny another potentially gifted colt from this foal crop its chance for immortality by breaking that record literally or figuratively (as unlikely as either case may seem), and/or delay the possible discovery of a stamina-producing stallion?

      In my opinion, any change in distance dilutes the event’s significance far beyond sequence and spacing considerations, and forever taints the decision makers with questionable motivation. There was no need to saddle the winner of all three traditional Triple Crown events in 2020 with an asterisk.

      Frankly, I was amazed at the acceptance if not advocacy on these pages of reducing the traditional distance of the Belmont Stakes from 1-1/2 mile to 1-1/4 mile or even lower, but apparently you, JP, and others are all far more in tune with the establishment mindset. This failure to call Bob Baffert’s bluff seems to ensure still another super-trainer success at short prices all around.

  6. John: Has anyone commenting on the “new ” Belmont ever run a business, large or small? As far as I am concerned, NYRA has been the only entity in horse racing which has demonstrated any inkling of cooperation. CDI and Stronach chose their dates and left NYRA with very few, if any options. Those people claiming that NYRA should have proceeded with a 12F Belmont, sometime in the fall, do not seem to understand that it would have been a meaningless race. What is more important, keeping it at 12F, with a tiny, mediocre field, or doing what they did, and keeping it a very important race with a large, competitive field? While I would have preferred a 10F race, utilizing the 70s chute ( thru the training track), it was probably not logistically feasible. So, we have an asterisk (*) Belmont, and TC this year. Big Deal! Until there is a medical solution to the current pandemic, nothing is the same. Lets hope that we will be able to attend the 12F Belmont next year.

  7. Mark, I understand your absolute concern for the protection of the younger horses in wanting to allow them more time to mature, but the reality is that the forces of greed will never allow for a delay. Bottom line it is all about money, and the wealth driving it is only focused on profit as evidenced by the proliferation of race day medication. Where I would also advocate that it would be best for the triple crown events to be held in the fall of their three year old campaigns, the reality is that many are already retired before September even arrives. Justify we hardly new you. The devil’s world is a bottom line business mindset focused only on the accumulation of wealth, and the associated “unbridled greed” sadly includes the entire industry of horse racings.

  8. DERBY By Definition:

    “Traditionally, the term “derby” is used strictly to refer to races restricted to three-year-olds, as the English and U.S. Triple Crown races all are.

    “The most notable exceptions to this rule are the Hong Kong Derby and Singapore Derby, restricted to four-year-old Thoroughbreds, and the Canadian Pacing Derby, an annual harness race for “aged pacers.”

  9. Like DiMaggio’s 56, or Woody’s five, there never will be another 12 furlongs in 2:24…

    1. The world record for 12 f on turf is lower.

      I was at BEL one day in the ’70s when multiple track records were broken including the one at 7 f by the horse whose name on a 7 f stake at SAR was replaced by that of H. Allen Jerkens.

      There was no 12 f race that day, but a lesser animal might still have set a new record by a margin likely less than 31 lengths. LOL

      Too bad Tiz The Law and his connections won’t get their chance at it. I wonder if Mr. Panza poled the potential participants in advance.

      I’d never say never, but the Woody 5 is probably safe. Did Whittingham have 5 or more successive wins in any stake in CA?

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