BALTIMORE — The next Triple Crown winner could be coroneted in the Preakness after the New York Racing Association announced Tuesday that the Belmont Stakes will be held June 20.

The traditional third leg of the Triple Crown series will instead be the first, with the Kentucky Derby scheduled to follow on Sept. 5 and the Preakness on Oct. 3. The Belmont will be run without spectators and cover 1⅛ miles instead of the traditional 1½ miles.

“While this will certainly be a unique running of this historic race, we are grateful to be able to hold the Belmont Stakes in 2020,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement.

Industry observers expected the Belmont to fall first in the series after the postponed dates for the Derby and Preakness were announced. A move to later in October was impractical given that the Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland. But the decision to make the race shorter was more controversial given the Belmont’s historical standing as a unique endurance test for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

NYRA officials said the change had to be made to “properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.” They feared the $1 million Belmont would not draw an elite field if it remained at 1½ miles, its established distance since 1926.

The Triple Crown series did not become a widely discussed concept until the 1930s, and the races were frequently run in different orders, sometimes with two of the three on the same day, in the years before then. But the pandemic-altered schedule will be the most unusual since at least 1945, when all three races were pushed to June because of World War II and run on three consecutive weekends.

No previous Triple Crown winner completed the feat in the Preakness.

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

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