Sports are slowly coming back amid the coronavirus pandemic, and that includes horse racing. The 152nd Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday in New York. Normally, the final race of the Triple Crown, it will be the first this year.
If you haven’t been paying close attention to horse racing since last year’s Belmont ended, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about ahead of Saturday’s race:
When is the Belmont Stakes?
Post time will be at approximately 5:42 p.m. ET on Saturday. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 3 p.m.
There will be no spectators at Belmont Park, which just reopened for racing on June 3. Also notable is that the “Test of the Champion” — normally the longest race of the Triple Crown at 1½ miles — will be only 1⅛ miles this year, given the reordered schedule. That will make it the shortest race of the three.
“Our racing committee looked at it and basically unanimously said, let’s go in June at a mile and an eighth,” Martin Panza, senior vice president at the New York Racing Association told NBC Sports. “Let’s not stress these horses and try to get them to go a mile and a half when they might not be prepared to do that.”
When are the other Triple Crown races?
The Kentucky Derby, traditionally held on the first Saturday in May, was postponed until Sept. 5. And the Preakness Stakes has been rescheduled for Oct. 3.
This marks the first time the three Triple Crown races will be run out of their traditional order since 1931. The Belmont has never been the opening leg of the Triple Crown.
NYRA did consider running the Belmont in the fall, after the rescheduled first two legs, but there were concerns about butting up against the Breeders’ Cup in November.
“We were very nervous that if you won the Derby or you won the Preakness, you would just say, ‘You know what, I’ll wait for the Breeders’ Cup, I’m not gonna run my 3-year-old a mile and a half [at Belmont],'” Panza said.
What does the field look like?
There were 10 horses in the draw held on Wednesday: Dr Post, Farmington Road, Fore Left, Jungle Runner, Max Player, Modernist, Pneumatic, Sole Volante, Tap It to Win and Tiz the Law.
Mark Casse, elected to the Hall of Fame last month, won last year’s Belmont with Sir Winston. If Tap It to Win is victorious Saturday, Casse will be the first trainer to win back-to-back Belmonts since fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas won three in a row in 1994-96.
Todd Pletcher, whose home base is Belmont, has two horses in this year’s race: Dr Post and Farmington Road. Pletcher-trained horses have won the Belmont three times, most recently Tapwrit in 2017.
Max Player is trainer Linda Rice’s first entrant in the Belmont since 2003, when Supervisor finished fifth. Rice would be the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race.
In terms of “hometown” favorites, Tiz the Law would be just the fourth New York-bred horse to win the Belmont, and the first since Forester in 1882. Tiz the Law’s trainer, Barclay Tagg, and ownership group, Sackatoga Stable, nearly won the Triple Crown with another New York-bred horse, Funny Cide, in 2003. Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but faded and finished third in the Belmont that year.
Tiz the Law is the morning-line favorite at 6-5 after receiving the No. 8 position during Wednesday’s post draw.
As for jockeys, 23-year-old Reylu Gutierrez — a native of Rochester, New York — is slated to make his Belmont Stakes debut, riding Jungle Runner. His horse is the biggest longshot in the race, at 50-1.
Two very promising horses trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert are out due to injury. Charlatan has been sidelined until at least the fall, and Nadal has been retired. Charlatan was one of two Baffert horses that recently tested positive for a banned substance, according to multiple reports.
Another expected Triple Crown contender, Maxfield, suffered an ankle injury last week, which will keep him out of the Belmont as well.
What else is happening at Belmont Park on Saturday?
There will be six graded races in all, including four Grade 1 races capped off by the 152nd Belmont Stakes. Just prior to that will be the Acorn, featuring three-year-old fillies, over a distance of 1 mile.