Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. The coronavirus pandemic qualified and temporarily shut down most of the horse racing industry – as well as many other businesses – around the world. That included the Kentucky Derby, which upended the entirety of the Triple Crown.
The Kentucky Derby needed a new date to set a path for others to follow, so Churchill Downs chose September 5 as the rescheduled Derby date.
That move put the Preakness Stakes under a spotlight. Though not ready to announce a new date, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan did confirm that the Preakness would move to correspond with the Derby. At the time of that announcement in mid-March, amidst the coronavirus chaos, Hogan said the Preakness would likely be in September to follow the Derby but did not provide a specific date.
The date of the 145th running of the Preakness Stakes will be October 3.
As Maryland and many other states begin a slow emergence from the pandemic shutdowns, the racing industry is on a comeback path as well.
Only a handful of tracks continued racing throughout the months of March, April, and May, though they did so without spectators and with only limited staff. Racetracks that stopped all racing per individual gubernatorial orders in March are now preparing to restart their races. Many of them now have reopening dates, albeit without spectators, and they are starting to announce late-spring and summer meets.
It was time for the Preakness Stakes announcement, too.
Governor Hogan did it this weekend: “Under normal circumstances, I would have stood today at Pimlico Race Course with Ms. Stronach to present the Woodlawn Vase to the winner of the 145th Preakness Stakes. But, as we all know, these are not ordinary circumstances. I am delighted that we were successful in working with 1/ST, the Maryland Jockey Club and all who are connected to Maryland’s Thoroughbred racing industry to set the new date of October 3rd.”
NBC Sports also confirmed that it will air a live broadcast of the Preakness on Saturday, October 3, starting at 4:30pm ET.
More details will follow, including plans for Black Eyed Susan Day.
InfieldFest Becomes Drive-InFieldFest
Started in 2020 by the Maryland Jockey Club, InfieldFest wanted to bring the party feel back to the Preakness. The festivities included music performances, infield tickets with beer mugs for unlimited refills, and even a mascot for a few years.
The Stronach Group and Maryland Jockey Club cancelled this year’s InfieldFest due to health concerns. Social distancing did not exactly seem in line with a party atmosphere. “This was a difficult decision,” the groups said of cancelling InfieldFest 2020, “but we are confident that it was the right one.”
In its place was a livestreamed event to benefit first responders. It took place on Saturday, May 16, on the day the Preakness would typically run.
Drive-InFieldFest was an event that happened at Gulfstream Park in Florida, a drive-in concert with a live performance by popular DJ D-Nice. YouTube livestreamed his DJ session on The Roots’ channel, as about 200 first responders drove up, parked, and enjoyed the concert from their vehicles. They also received food and drink during the set.
During the live broadcast and still on the website’s dedicated page, people are invited to donate to the First Responders Children’s Foundation. The organization works to meet the needs of those on the front lines of extraordinary circumstances, like the current pandemic, from providing essential services to awarding scholarships to children who lose first responder parent.
Historic 2020 Preakness Stakes
The last time the Preakness didn’t run in May was in 1945. The war just ended on May 7, but it took some time to reschedule all of the Triple Crown races that year. The Kentucky Derby ran on June 9, and the 55th running of the Preakness followed on June 16.
The records for that historic day of racing in mid-June included a mutuel pool of more than $1.6 million and handle of $347,343 for a single race.
This year will mark the first Preakness rescheduled due to a pandemic. It will also be a celebration of sorts for Pimlico Race Course, as it recently received word that it will continue to be the home of the Preakness. Lawmakers also approved the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020, which will provide for much-needed renovations when this racing season ends.