Horse racing’s Triple Crown has been moved to the fall this year in the hope that the effects of COVID-19 have subsided enough to run the sport’s signature races before large crowds.
Churchill Downs announced on Tuesday that the sport’s most well-known race, the Kentucky Derby, was rescheduled for Sept. 5, the start of Labor Day weekend. Bill Carstanjen, chief executive of Churchill Downs Inc., said details were being worked out to move the Preakness, at Pimlico in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes in New York to fall dates following the Derby.
“For the second time in the 145-year history of the event, the first time being at the end of World War II, we will move the date of the Kentucky Derby,” Carstanjen said. “We sincerely regret any inconvenience this creates for our outstanding fans, whom I’m sure will understand that there is no doubt that this must be done.”
If details can be worked out, the Preakness would be held on Sept. 19 and the Belmont on Oct. 10. All these changes are subject to approval of the states’ regulatory agencies, which is expected. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will likely give its approval on Thursday.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else,” said Dave O’Rourke, chief executive of the New York Racing Assn. “NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.”
In addition, there will be more points races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Those races have not been announced.
Santa Anita and Del Mar do not have a strong stakes program for 3-year-olds after the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. So, it is expected that any additional Kentucky Derby points races will be held in the East. The Travers Stakes was scheduled for Aug. 29 at Saratoga, so that race will either be moved or made irrelevant.
The Breeders’ Cup, this year in Keeneland in Kentucky, will be held four weeks after the Belmont, on Nov. 6-7.
The moves also put racing at the start of college football season, should it go on as scheduled. The races, no doubt, will lead to diminished TV viewership of football games on those days.