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Belmont Stakes is set for June 20, becoming the first race in the Triple Crown series

The stands will be empty, but the Belmont Stakes will take place next month and lead off the Triple Crown rather than wrap it up. (Seth Wenig/AP)

The Belmont Stakes has found a place on the sports calendar and will be run June 20, making it the first of horse racing’s Triple Crown races rather than the last for the first time in history.

The Kentucky Derby, traditionally run the first Saturday in May and typically the first of the Triple Crown races, is scheduled to be run Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The Preakness Stakes, originally scheduled for this past Saturday, is now slated to run Oct. 3 at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. The Belmont Stakes was originally scheduled for June 6, and Belmont Park, which had been closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, will open without spectators in the first week of June.

The 152nd edition of the race will take place over a shorter distance — 1⅛ miles rather than its usual challenging 1½ miles, the New York Racing Association announced. Its purse will be reduced by a third to $1 million, and no spectators will be allowed at the Elmont, N.Y., track.

“It was tough to ask developing 3-year horses to go that far after not racing for months,” David O’Rourke, the chief executive of the NYRA, told the New York Times. “As far as the purse, we partly rely on casino revenues, and it doesn’t look like they are running any time soon.”

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The move makes the Belmont more of a prep race than a Triple Crown event, essentially a Kentucky Derby qualifier. Last week, Churchill Downs announced that if either the Preakness or Belmont preceded the Derby, the winner would receive 150 qualifying points toward entrance in the Derby. The second- through fourth-place finishers will receive 60, 30 and 15 points.

The change in the Triple Crown schedule is not without precedent. From 1923 through 1931, the Preakness was run before the Derby. On Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced that the state’s horse racing tracks would be allowed to open June 1.

“This is the year for traditions to go out the window,” O’Rourke said.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

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