The Belmont is one of three major races for three-year-old thoroughbred horses in the United States. Together, the races are known as horse racing's Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown will look very different this year, from start to finish.
For the first time, the Belmont Stakes will be run before the other two races, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in Baltimore. Horses competing in the Belmont Stakes normally run about 2.4 kilometers. But this year, the distance has been cut to two kilometers. And Belmont Park – the track where the race takes place – will be mostly quiet. There will be no racing fans cheering on the horses.
"I think we're going to have a big field," said New York Racing Association president Dave O'Rourke. In this case, "field" means the group of horses taking part in the race.
O'Rourke added, "I think it'll be a really competitive field. I think the dynamics of the race are different."
The Triple Crown races will not be taking place in their usual order for the first time since 1931. The Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to September 5 because of efforts to stop the coronavirus. The health crisis also forced the postponement of Preakness from May 16 to October 3.4
An out-of-order Triple Crown will be a different kind of competition. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont are usually run during a five-week period in the spring. By the summer and autumn, the three-year-old thoroughbreds are more experienced.
"It's going to help some, it's going to hurt others," trainer Mark Casse said. "You're going to see a lot stronger, probably a bigger, stronger horse from May."
The Belmont was supposed to take place on June 6. But horse racing in New York was halted in March after a racetrack worker was found to have the disease COVID-19. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did not announce his decision to restart racing until May 16.
Live racing is slowly restarting across North America. Track owners feel they can operate safely and earn money without fans watching. There are two reasons for this: earnings from television broadcasts and online betting.
Last year, many people who bet on the Belmont Stakes did not actually attend the race. Off-track betting operations took in more than $90 million on the race.
Bob Baffert has trained two Triple Crown winners over the years. This year, he hopes to build up his horses for the three races with the Belmont as the first event.
"I think they're going to be more competitive with that spaced-out time," Baffert said. "At the end of the day, the end game is the Kentucky Derby. That September 5 date is what we're all shooting for."
I'm Pete Musto.