US RACING: The Belmont Stakes is different – views

US trainer Bob Baffert

With news that the 2020 Belmont Stakes has officially been scheduled for nine furlongs at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 20, horesmen offered differing opinions on the legitimacy of a Triple Crown this year.

An 11-week layoff separates the Belmont and the second classic, the 2020 Kentucky Derby, set for Sept. 5. The Preakness Stakes then follows on Oct. 3.

This changes the traditional spacing of the races, which usually take place in a span of five weeks in the spring.

Trainer Graham Motion, who won the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom, simply tweeted the words “Triple Crown” followed by an asterisk after news of the Belmont’s date and distance assured a unique series in 2020.

“It’s a different feeling, a different vibe, but one thing is they’re all going to be very competitive races,” said Bob Baffert, who has won Triple Crowns in recent years with American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

“Most years you may have a full field in the Derby, then you’ll see just a few go on to the Preakness and Belmont. But with the timing between races, you’re going to see more loaded up and competitive fields.”

Sackatoga Stables’ Jack Knowlton, who manages top 3-year-old Tiz the Law, echoed Motion, saying that “obviously, it’s one of those things that would get an asterisk. I get that. There may be many people who would feel that it wasn’t a legitimate Triple Crown win.

“Look at all of the people who have had horses win the first two legs, then weren’t able to win the ‘Test of Champions.’ I don’t have a problem with that. If you want to say it’s not on the par with the other Triple Crown winners, I could understand that and not necessarily disagree with it — having not been able to get that third leg with Funny Cide.”

Knowlton, of course, was speaking of his 2003 Derby and Preakness hero who finished third in the Belmont Stakes.

Trainer Greg Sacco, who maintains a string of horses in New York, called himself “a traditionalist” when it comes to the Triple Crown.

“And with the Belmont starting off, it’s going to be odd,” he added. “But I think it’s going to be a deep field – especially at a mile and an eighth.

“Most horses can’t go a mile and a half. It’s a test of stamina. So there’ll be still a lot of horses, up to a mile and an eighth, that are very talented. A mile and a half separates a lot of horses. I think there’ll still be a very deep, competitive field.”

Jockey Chris DeCarlo also weighed in on Twitter, asking, “is it still the Triple Crown?”

This October, at Pimlico, that’s what the racing world will have to decide should a 3-year-old emerge who can sweep the classics in 2020.


US RACING – Tampa Bay Downs returns in June            

Eight dates in June have been added to Tampa Bay Downs‘ 2019-20 Thoroughbred racing calendar after the track’s request was approved by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Tampa Bay Downs announced May 20.

The June dates are the second meet extension granted this spring to Tampa Bay Downs, which has continued to conduct live racing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The track was originally scheduled to conclude its live racing season May 3, but on April 23 Florida regulators approved the meet’s extension to May 30.

Tampa Bay Downs has been racing without spectators since March 18.

The track will conduct racing in June on Mondays and Wednesdays, with the dates scheduled as June 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, and 24. Spectators will not be allowed, nor will they be permitted to attend the track’s annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing June 30 and July 1.

The current meeting ends June 30, the first day of the Summer Festival of Racing. The July 1 card counts as the official start of the 2020-21 Thoroughbred meeting, which would then likely resume in late November.

Tampa Bay Downs is currently racing on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and will remain on that schedule through May 30.  Management expects the additional dates will help ease the financial hardship felt by many horsemen during the ongoing coronavirus.

The Silks Poker Room remains closed until further notice. The Downs Golf Practice Facility is open for business.


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