Uncertain Triple Crown: Belmont faces hurdles amid upheaval

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              FILE - In this June 4, 2013, file photo, Preakness winner Oxbow, left, enters the track for a light workout at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is at rear. The order of the Triple Crown races could be different this year. “If you go from a mile-and-a-half and start dropping back, it’s going to change a lot,” said Lukas, winner of 14 Triple Crown races. “It’ll change how you train, it’ll change the type of horse that will end up in the Derby. It’ll be a very, very significant change.” (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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Horse racing’s annual Triple Crown season has been thrust into weeks and months of uncertainty by the coronavirus pandemic. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont face the same challenges in their own unique way. A look at some of the obstacles for the Belmont:

RACE DATE

The 153rd edition of the Belmont Stakes was set for June 6, but has yet to be rescheduled. It may be run in late June or even the fall. If it is held in its usual spot five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, which was rescheduled to Sept. 5, it would be close to the Breeders’ Cup, leaving horses little time to regroup for the lucrative two-day world championships. That event is set for Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland in Kentucky. A fall Belmont also could face competition from college football and the NFL.

RACE LOCATION

Belmont Park in New York, a state that has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. There could be less parking available anyway because of nearby construction on the New York Islanders’ new arena, which has been halted because of the coronavirus. There might be fewer available hotel rooms in New York in the fall than in June, when the city begins emptying out for summer getaways.

NO FANS

The Belmont is the last race of the Triple Crown series. Attendance and interest varies greatly, depending on whether a horse has already won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to set up a bid to sweep the Triple Crown. The race enjoys its biggest attendance and wagering totals when such a scenario exists. Attendance on Belmont day is already capped to make for a more comfortable experience, and fans are not allowed in the infield. Capacity also figures to be limited by the Islanders’ arena construction. There are several rich stakes races on the day’s undercard, which contribute to the overall wagering totals. The race is televised by NBC, and draws its highest viewership when a Triple Crown bid is on the line.

BETTORS

Among the most popular wagers when a Triple Crown sweep is possible is a $2 win ticket. If there is a Triple Crown winner, thousands of these never get cashed and instead serve as souvenirs. But the possibility of the Belmont being run before the Derby and Preakness takes out that of the equation. BRISnet’s Ed DeRosa said timing could also lead more owners and trainers to skip the Belmont, making it a less attractive betting race.

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