The Triple Crown, one of the US biggest horse racing events, will go ahead on June 20 without spectators after it was approved by the New York Racing Association.
Triple Crown's return date couldn't have come at a more convenient time. June seems to be the ideal return month for many sports throughout the US and Europe. First, it was the UFC hosting Mixed Martial Arts. Then open-air sports like golf, NASCAR and tennis resumed.
Now the Belmont Stakes horse racing event is on track to take place at Belmont Park sans spectators. There will be a few more differences compared to yesteryears' competitions, though.
This year’s Triple Crown event will be a mile and an eighth long and not the standard mile and a half-length. On the flip side, it will cost half the usual price of $6000 to enlist an eligible thoroughbred—usually a three-year-old horse.
When nominations commenced at the start of this year, trainers and owners enlisted 347 horses. The final nomination process was scheduled for March 30 but like many well made plans this year it had to be re-arranged. As a result, it was extended to late May and then to June 3.
The Belmont Stakes is conventionally held as the final major racing event of the year. But this year it will precede the Kentucky Derby (September 5) and the Preakness (October 3). As it's the tradition, however, completing the Triple Crown means participating in all three events. That means whoever wins on June 20 will have to race again on September 5 and October 3.
Favourite Nadal Out of the Race
Nadal, a horse named after tennis great Rafael Nadal and a favourite to win the Triple Crown according to trainer Bob Baffert, will be out with an injury on June 20. The colt injured his left ankle at the end of May after a short training session in which he sprinted half a mile in 48.80 seconds. He was later treated but ruled out of the Belmont Stakes competition.
“He looked good doing it,” Baffert said about Nadal's training session. “He got back to the barn, and you could tell he was a little bit off. We X-rayed his left ankle…he's got the start of a condylar fracture.”
According to Baffert, Nadal won’t return to training until early September. However, he won’t take place in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness. Although Nadal was inspired by Rafael’s ability to sustain injuries, Baffert admitted the colt’s owners could think of retiring him soon.
A Blessing for Everyone
Track owners, race organizers and bookmakers feel confident about profiting from this year’s events. There might not be spectators. But they are scheduled to rake in earnings from broadcasters and online betting.
Horse racing betting is particularly mushrooming in the US. What’s more, it’s been taking place off-track for a while, culminating in $90 million earned in 2019. With lockdowns still in place, organizers are hoping for viewership on TV and possibly record earnings.
More US Sports to Resume
As we mentioned earlier, horse racing is returning at the most convenient time for all sports. The PGA Tour will officially return on June 11, a couple of weeks after Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson led an exhibition match that helped raise $20 million for charity.
NASCAR, which has been incredibly active through virtual games, will return to the Texas Motor Speedway on June 6. A series of fixtures will then ensue, with the Indianapolis 500 taking place in August.
Some leagues are yet to decide on return dates, though. Baseball, hockey, basketball and Major League Soccer will take more time before they resume regular fixtures. None of them have even begun training again.
An Unfair Advantage to Some?
Some horse racing experts are concerned that this year’s abnormal schedule will provide an uneven ground. Conventionally, the Triple Crown events take place within five weeks during the spring. What's more, all participating colts must be three years of age.
This year's event will mean that some horses will be significantly more energetic, more so, those participating in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. They will be more experienced, faster and have the advantage of racing in fairer weather conditions.
“It’s going to help some, it’s going to hurt others,” Mark Casse, a trainer, conquers. “You’re going to see a lot stronger, probably a bigger, stronger horse from May.”