The Belmont Stakes is known as “The Test of the Champion” and will be contested for the 152nd time this year, but for the first time in over a century it won’t serve the final leg of the American Triple Crown thanks to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The Belmont Stakes is traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing, but this year it will be the first as for the first time it will be contested 2 ½ months before the Kentucky Derby and 3 ½ months before the Preakness Stakes when it is usually offered five weeks after the Derby and three weeks after the Preakness.
And in keeping with the regulations set up in New York allowing for horse racing to be contested at all, the Belmont Stakes will be run spectator-free for the first time. Participants will also be required to continue with safe social distancing protocols and, of course, masks for everyone are a must. The lack of fans in the Belmont Park grandstand will be a stark contrast to the norm for the race as it is normally a very well-attended event even without a Triple Crown on the line. A record crowd of 120,139 attended the 2004 Belmont Stakes when longshot Birdstone won and defeated Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones.
The Belmont Stakes this year will be contested at the distance of 1 1/8 miles and not 1 ½ miles – the traditional distance since 1926 — for a number of reasons, but mostly because the progression of distances from the 1 ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby and the 1 3/16 miles of the Preakness Stakes won’t be in play this year. Most of the runners who enter the Belmont Stakes starting gate every year have never contested the 12 furlongs, but this year because of the coronavirus shutdowns many haven’t even contested the new nine-furlong distance.
The race is restricted to three year olds. Males carry 126 pounds and females, if they run, carry 121 pounds.
This year, ten will be in the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes and Sackatoga Stables’ Tiz The Law is the 6-5 morning line favorite. Sackatoga Stables owned New York-bred Funny Cide, who won the 2003 Derby and Preakness. A crowd of 101,864, which is the fourth-largest crowd in the history of the race, showed up to Belmont Park hoping to see the first New York-bred Triple Crown winner only to see him finish third Behind the Bobby Frankel-trained Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted over a sloppy track.