Thursday, May 7, 2020 — A report from NBC network affiliate WBAL in Baltimore, Md., on Wednesday afternoon said the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes would be held on Oct. 3, but the television station later updated its story to say a “potential” October date was being looked at to book the race on NBC.
The update came after a statement from The Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club was posted on Twitter following the WBAL report:
“The Stronach Group/Maryland Jockey Club is aware that a potential date for Preakness 145 has been announced,” the statement read. “At this point, there is no definitive date set and we continue to explore options. Once a date for Preakness 145 has been finalized, an official announcement will be made.”
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 — This morning we saw a press release from the New York Racing Association promising an announcement regarding the opening of the delayed Belmont Spring/Summer meet and its mile and one-half cornerstone event, the Belmont Stakes.
Presuming a “new normal” return to business, the Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in September, the Preakness is the first Saturday of October and with the Breeders’ Cup Classic, et al, set for the first Saturday in November, where the hell does the Belmont Stakes fit in?
Were there talks between the NYRA and Maryland Jockey Club regarding their Triple Crown races? Don’t know and didn’t bother to ask. Bill O’Reilly isn’t the only media operative who tries to avoid spin whenever possible.
Eventually the truth will out; always does. If and when racing resumes in New York, there will be a Belmont. But a “Test of the Champion” depends on other factors.
If it were to come post-Breeders’ Cup, that would mean, at the latest/earliest Thanksgiving weekend–at Aqueduct. There’s precedent for that: Five Belmonts were run at the Big A in the early 1960s.
It’s highly unlikely, although it certainly could be, run a week or two before the Classic but not by horsemen is search of a Classic enchilada; a run vs. older horses for possible Horse of the Year honors. And at what distance?
The Belmont has been run at 12 furlongs since 1926. But the race has also been run at a mile and five furlongs, a mile and three furlongs, a mile and a quarter, and even a mile and an eighth–twice.
Bob Baffert said post-Arkansas Derby that he would consider running one of his established sophomore stars in a pre-Derby Belmont–if the distance were nine furlongs. So there’s that.
We know that if there is a Santa Anita Derby, it will be June 6. If there’s a Haskell, it would be July 18. My guess is that should Authentic win the Santa Anita Derby, the timing of the Haskell Stakes is perfect. Think Baffert’s good in Arkansas? He’s won eight Haskells.
Do you want fries with that Max’s hot dog?
Where this all leaves the Belmont, and the Travers for that matter, is scheduling limbo; not only when, but how far, and exactly where does that land in relation to other major three-year-old events, before or after Derby? That’s what trainers and owners will need to figure out.
A hard lesson seems to be clear: He who hesitates not only can get lost but lose his way entirely. And if you think this 2020 event-scheduling issue is a one-off, maybe horsemen should consult their local scientist before calling the nearest racing office.