May 21, 2020 - Sports

Coronavirus forces a revamped Triple Crown schedule

American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown in 2015

American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown in 2015. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

The Belmont Stakes, generally held the first week in June, has been rescheduled for June 20.

Why it matters: For the first time ever, the Belmont will be the first leg of the Triple Crown, not the last. It will also be shorter than usual, giving this year's trio of races an entirely different feel.

The Triple Crown slate, as it stands now:

  • June 20: Belmont Stakes
  • Sept. 5: Kentucky Derby
  • Oct. 3: Preakness Stakes

By the numbers: Normally, the Derby is 1 1⁄4 miles, the Preakness is 1 3⁄16 miles, and the Belmont is 1 1⁄2 miles. But as a safety precaution for horses not used to opening with such a long race, Belmont will be just 1 1⁄8 miles this year — the shortest Triple Crown leg since the 1924 Preakness.

The big picture: "The Test of the Champion" may no longer be a fitting slogan for Belmont given the reduced distance, but in the long run this change could actually be beneficial for the entire sport.

  • In a typical year, all three races occur over a five-week span, with interest dwindling after the Derby kicks things off.
  • But this time around, even though the stretched out timeline isn't perfect (horses can't easily maintain their fitness for 75 days), it should cut down on injuries while also making each race more exciting on its own.

The bottom line: It remains to be seen how owners, trainers, jockeys and horses will take to the revamped 2020 schedule, but for a sport so steeped in tradition, a shake-up like this might prove that just because something's always been done one way, doesn't necessarily make it right.

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