On Tuesday (May 19) the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced the oldest and longest event in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) will be contested on June 20 at nine furlongs (1-1/8 miles) rather than the traditional version at 1-1/2 miles. Normally contested five weeks after the Kentucky Derby (Grade I) and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes (Grade I) the Belmont will offer a $1 million purse and kick off Triple Crown with a lucrative supporting undercard.
After the Stronach Group’s announcement on Saturday (May 16) the Preakness would be conducted on Oct. 3, all eyes in the horse racing world have been focused on when the Belmont date would be revealed. As the Breeders’ Cup Classic will take place on Nov. 7 at Keeneland Racecourse, NYRA determined a fall date would not be appropriate as the Belmont “at a mile and a half in mid-October did not feel like a good idea,” NYRA president and CEO Dave O’Rourke said Tuesday according to the Daily Racing Form.
“Because of the way the race is now positioned, it’s the right distance,” O’Rourke continued in regards to altering the race’s distance. “We respect the tradition of it, but it’s not the third leg in a five-week series anymore for 3-year-olds early in the year. It’s a 3-year-old race in June before any of the others, so the distance to us makes sense. It’ll be a big field. This will be the year everything goes out the window. If there is ever a time to do something different it’s this year.”
Barclay Tagg, who conditions top 3-year-old Tiz the Law, told media earlier this week the colt who captured the Florida Derby (Grade I) in impressive fashion would be pointed towards the Belmont and would ship there the first week in June. Tiz the Law is proven over this surface as he won the Champagne Stakes (Grade I) over this surface as a 2-year-old and it is his home base.
Bob Baffert, trainer of the undefeated colts Nadal and Charlatan, also elite 3-year-olds told Daily Racing Form reporters through text message both horses would be considered to start in the Belmont. Each horse won a division of the Arkansas Derby (Grade I) in their most recent trips to the post.
“It would be both or one,” Baffert wrote. “Depending on how they are training.”
Worth $1.5 million last year, the purse of the Belmont has been reduced to $1 million. This is a result of the lack of funds of Resorts World casino which provides 38 percent of purse money for racing.
Contested at 1-1/2 miles since 1926, the Belmont has been offered at other distances. This includes 1-1/8 miles from 1893-94 when it was held at Morris Park. It was also ran at 1-3/8 miles from 1896-1903 and from 1906-1925. Over the course of the 152 years the race has been run it was also held at 1-1/14 and 1-5/8 miles.
Since it is being run before the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes essentially becomes a prep race for the Derby. The top four finishers of the Belmont will earn qualifying points (150-60-30-15) to the Derby.