News and STORIES

Belmont Park Opening Set For June 3

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Wednesday May 20, 2020
The New York Racing Association has announced that the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park will kick off on June 3, but there will be no fans allowed. It will be the first time that live racing takes place in the state since March 15.

Martin Panza is NYRA's senior vice president of racing operations. 

"It's most definitely a huge relief, especially since during the last two or three weeks people were at wit's end and there was a lot of stress. So now that everything is set, we can start getting some money out there for the horsemen," said Panza.

Initial Week

According to the May 19 press release, the initial week of racing at Belmont Park will be for five days, taking place Wednesday through Sunday. For the remainder of the meet, which closes on July 12, it will be four-day racing from Thursday through Sunday. 

"The resumption of live racing at Belmont Park on June 3, with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place, will support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of thoroughbred racing in New York," NYRA president & CEO Dave O'Rourke said. 

"The return of live sports, especially New York institutions like the Belmont Stakes, is a welcome sign of progress that will bring some sense of normalcy back to our everyday lives."

Now that racing is moving forward, horsemen can begin to return after their times in Florida and Kentucky.

"The condition book is out, and people have a couple of weeks to put workouts into their horses, and the Florida guys are in the process of moving up here. It does give us some leeway to get things teed up," Panza said. "If their homes are in New York, I am sure they want to see New York racing prosper. If a horse or two made its way to Churchill Downs, that's understandable. 

"Owners need to run their horses. For us, it's a sense of getting back to normalcy. If a horse ran at Churchill last weekend or this weekend, will it make its way back to New York? Sure. The important thing is we're open again. "

The Belmont Stakes

Earlier the same day, NYRA also announced that the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1) would take place on June 20 at Belmont Park. Because of the changes, it will not be the opening leg of the Triple Crown series.

Besides a purse reduction for the event, the Belmont Stakes will also run at a shorter distance of 1 1/8 miles around one turn. 

The race was originally set to run on June 6 at 1 1/2 miles as the final leg of the Triple Crown series. Instead, it will now be the beginning of the spring classics series, which will cover 15 weeks from the spring to the fall. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) was moved from May 2 to Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, and the Preakness Stakes (G1) was also delayed from May 16 to Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course. 

"It's the Belmont Stakes. This is, in many ways, the Kentucky Derby because you will have the best horses running in this race who typically would not meet until the Kentucky Derby," said Jack Knowlton, head of the New York-based Sackatoga Stable partnership that owns Triple Crown candidate Tiz the Law. 

"You will have a whole lot of good horses facing each other for the first time. The excitement you have for the Kentucky Derby, you will have for the Belmont Stakes."