In perhaps the biggest live sporting event since COVID-19 upended the athletics world, the Belmont Stakes will kick off the Triple Crown for the first time in its 152-year history.
Normally the final leg of the Triple Crown, the coronavirus pandemic forced both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness States to postpone their races to September and October, respectively. The Belmont Stakes only had to deal with a delay of two weeks, giving Saturday’s race the opportunity to stand out more than in years past.
“I think because it’s the first and the biggest race of the year to date, that will change a little bit of perspective on it,” Mike Tirico, who is hosting NBC’s coverage, said during a conference call with reporters.
Due to New York’s coronavirus restrictions, there will be no fans in the stands at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. NBC reporters will maintain social distancing by using six-foot boom microphones, and the announcers will call the race remotely.
The length of the race has also been shortened a bit, from 1½ miles down to 1⅛ miles. According to the New York Racing Association, the shorter track will help horses “properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for three-year-olds in training.”
Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream the 2020 Belmont Stakes:
NBC’s live coverage will begin at 2:45 p.m., hosted by Tirico. The race will post at about 5:42 p.m.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Tirico will be joined by a socially distanced crew that includes analyst Randy Moss from Stamford, Conn.; hockey analyst and longtime handicapper Eddie Olczyk from his home in Chicago; and Hall of Fame jockey and two-time Belmont Stakes winner Jerry Bailey from his home in Florida.
Reporters Britney Eurton and Kenny Rice, and race caller Larry Collmus will be on-site at Belmont Park. Collumus said he’s not worried about calling the race with no crowd, since most horse racing booths are pretty quiet because they’re enclosed in glass and typically tower above the stands.
“I think that the main difference is the lead-up to the race where you hear the crowd,” Collmus said. “The New York crowd at Belmont Park is always really loud as the horses get up to the starting gate because they start right in front of the stands, and it sort of pumps you up and gets you into that feeling.”
For those interested in the undercard races, they will air on FS1 and FS2 beginning at 11:30 a.m.
- Tap It to Win (6-1)
- Sole Volante (9-2)
- Max Player (15-1)
- Modernist (15-1)
- Farmington Road (15-1)
- Fore Left (30-1)
- Jungle Runner (50-1)
- Tiz the Law (6-5)
- Dr Post (5-1)
- Pneumatic (10-1)
For more details, my colleague Ed Barkowitz has a breakdown of each horse, complete with their jockeys, career earnings, and 2020 stats.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the normal Triple Crown order — Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont — was shuffled for the first time since 1930, when the Preakness ran the week before the Kentucky Derby.
This year’s Triple Crown schedule is: