Belmont Stakes to replace Kentucky Derby as first leg of Triple Crown, run at a shorter distance

Like everything else in sports this year, horse racing’s Triple Crown will have a different look.

The New York Racing Association announced on Tuesday that the Belmont Stakes will take place on June 20, replacing the Kentucky Derby as the first leg of the Triple Crown for the first time in the sport’s history.

The news arrives a day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to help start sports up again in the state following the COVID-19 shutdown. The Belmont Stakes takes place at Belmont Park just outside of Queens.

Race will be shorter

The June 20 run date is two weeks after its initially scheduled June 6 running. The race will be run without fans in attendance. The race will also be held at a shorter distance at 1 1/8 miles. The Belmont has run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926 and is known as the most grueling of the Triple Crown races for its distance.

The Kentucky Derby runs at 1 1/4 miles and the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles.

For the first time ever, the Belmont Stakes will lead off the Triple Crown. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The NYRA announced that the distance change was implemented “to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.”

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness are scheduled for significantly longer delays than the Belmont. The Kentucky Derby was scheduled to run on May 2 and is now planned for Sept. 5 as the second leg in this year’s Triple Crown. The Preakness is planned for Oct. 3 after being moved off its May 16 run date.

Sports continue return from shutdown

The announcement is part of a greater move to return to sports as the coronavirus pandemic still maintains a foothold in the United States. As of Tuesday, the United States claimed 1.5 million of the world’s 4.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with more than 90,000 deaths.

The PGA Tour is scheduled to return on June 11 while the NBA and MLB have both expressed optimism about a return to the field of play. UFC has run three events since May 9. NASCAR returned to the track on May 17.

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