NYRA Moves Shortened to 1 1/8 Miles Belmont Stakes to June 20

The New York Racing Association has announced the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1), reduction from last year’s purse of $1.5 million, will be contested at 1 1/8 miles,  on June 20 at Belmont Park without fans, making it the opening leg of a Triple Crown series.

Aside from a new date and a reduction from last year’s purse of $1.5 million, the 152nd Belmont Stakes will also be run at a shorter distance of 1 1/8 miles around one turn, not at originally scheduled at a distance of 1 1/2 miles.

Also shifted for 2020 are the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) from May 2 to Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs and the Preakness Stakes (G1) was pushed back from May 16 to Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.

With the Triple Crown beginning on the third Saturday in June instead of the first Saturday in May, some traditionalists may also look at the longer space between races and the shorter distance of the Belmont as “not the real Triple Crown”. 

Churchill Downs had previously announced that the Belmont Stakes would have qualifying points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby attached if the American classic were run prior to the Derby. That current criteria calls for the top four finishers in Belmont Stakes to receive 150-60-30-15 points.

Even with a new date, the Belmont Stakes figures to attract a field loaded with the top 3-year-olds. According to the conditions of the race, the field for the Belmont Stakes will be limited to 16 starters, with the first eight spots going to horses with the highest earnings in graded stakes at a mile and beyond. The next five will be determined by lifetime earnings in non-restricted stakes and the final three starters will be chosen by the Belmont Stakes Selection Committee.  

Aside from forcing a new order for the Triple Crown races for the first time since 1931, the pandemic also disrupted the schedule of prep races for the classics. Since the March 28 Florida Derby, the lone Kentucky Derby Championship Series races have been the May 2 split divisions of the Arkansas Derby (G1), though last weekend’s return of racing in Kentucky and California has created new opportunities for Triple Crown hopefuls. Churchill Downs has scheduled the $150,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) for May 23 and the 1 1/16-mile stakes at the Louisville track will offer 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers. In addition, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) has been moved from April 4 to June 6, when the Belmont Stakes was originally scheduled, and will distribute 100-40-20-10 points.

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