For the first time in the history of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the 2020 edition of the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg of the prestigious competition. While the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to be pushed back several months, the Belmont Stakes was only pushed back two weeks, from June 6 to June 20, per NBC Sports. NBC continues their long history of airing the race, with coverage beginning at 2:45 p.m. eastern and post time for the race currently 5:42 p.m. eastern.
The move from its traditional weekend won’t be the only change the 2020 Belmont Stakes has undergone in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s edition of the race will be its shortest since 1926, as competitors will run for a mile-and-an-eighth instead of the usual mile-and-a-half.
The New York Racing Association released a statement explaining the shift, saying it was done to “properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.” The statement also announced that the Race will be taking place without spectators at its usual home of Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Since the beginning, the Belmont Stakes has been the race that coronated Triple Crown winners.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 13, 2020
While fans won’t be able to fill the stands this year, NBC will be providing comprehensive coverage of the event from 2:45 p.m. eastern until 6 p.m. eastern. For those without access to a television, the race is available to stream on the website and app for NBC Sports. The Belmont Stakes caps off a full day of horse racing for fans of the sport as the NBC Sports Network will also be providing coverage of the Royal Ascot in England from 8:30 a.m. eastern until 12 p.m. eastern.
Given that this year’s Belmont Stakes won’t have the distance that makes it the “Test of the Champions,” 2020 creates a unique opportunity for a surprise contender to break out. Current favorites include Tiz the Law, who is coming in hot after winning the 2020 Florida Derby in May and is aiming to become the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont since 1882, along with Tap It to Win, who is being trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse. Casse previously trained Sir Winston, the winner of the 2019 Belmont Stakes, and War of Will, the winner of the 2019 Preakness Stakes. Tap It to Win has won both of the races he entered in 2020, including an allowance race that got him into the Belmont Stakes just 16 days ago.