Churchill Downs announced Tuesday that horse racing’s most celebrated event, the Kentucky Derby will be held Sept. 5, the Saturday before Labor Day. But neither the Preakness in Baltimore nor the Belmont Stakes in New York have followed suit, leaving the status of the Triple Crown in flux as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
Bill Carstanjen, chief executive of Churchill Downs Inc., in announcing the postponement, indicated that details were being discussed to allow the other two races to be run in their traditional order and timetable after the Kentucky 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, who I’m sure will understand that there is no doubt that this must be done.”
If the details can be worked out, the Preakness would be held on Sept. 19 at Pimlico and the Belmont on Oct. 10 at Belmont Park. All the changes would be subject to approval of the states’ regulatory agencies, which would be likely. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is expected to give its approval 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,” Dave O’Rourke, chief executive of the New York Racing Assn., said in a statement without naming a date of the Belmont. “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.”
The Preakness is currently scheduled for May 16 and the Belmont on June 6. The Kentucky Derby was scheduled for May 2.
“We worked closely with Churchill Downs on this scheduling,” NBC said in a statement. “While we appreciate the traditional sequencing of the Triple Crown races, these are uncharted waters. We will work with our partners who run the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to determine the most appropriate timing.”
More races will be added to the schedule for 3-year-olds to build points 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 would 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 proposed new date for the Belmont, on Nov. 6-7.
The move also puts racing at the start of college football season, should it go on as scheduled. It, no doubt, will lead to diminished TV viewership of football games on those days.