The 153rd-annual Belmont Stakes will take place Saturday on Long Island — and with no chance of a Triple Crown winner, it remains to be seen how many viewers will actually tune in.
In 2018, 12.7 million viewers watched Justify clinch the Triple Crown. But in 2019, when no Triple Crown was at stake, the race drew just 4.9 million viewers, making it the least-watched Belmont Stakes since 2010, according to Sports Media Watch (last year’s pandemic-delayed race drew just 3.3 million viewers).
Rombauer, the winner of last month’s Preakness Stakes, will be among the horses racing. His jockey will be John Velazquez, who won this year’s Kentucky Derby atop Medina Spirit and has won twice the Belmont Stakes twice — in 2007 with Rags to Riches and in 2012 atop Union Rags.
If any horse but Rombauer wins the Belmont, it’ll mark the third consecutive year (and fifth in the past eight years) with a different horse winning each of the Triple Crown races.
Essential Quality is the morning line favorite, and is one of five horses running today that also competed in the Kentucky Derby (the other four are Hot Rod Charlie, Known Agenda, Bourbonic, and Rock Your World).
One horse not in the lineup is Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, who failed a second drug test and faces a possible disqualification as the Derby’s winner. If that happens, Medina Spirit would be just the second horse disqualified in the Derby’s 147-year history, and owner Amr Zedan would be forced to forfeit his $1.8 million first-place check.
Medina Spirit’s Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was suspended for two years due to the failed drug test, so none of his horses are allowed to compete Saturday.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream the Belmont Stakes:
What time does the Belmont Stakes start?
NBC’s live coverage will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern, hosted by Mike Tirico. The race will post at 6:47 p.m., and will stream on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. Early coverage will begin at 3 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.
When: Saturday, June 5
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Post time: 6:47 p.m. Eastern
Host: Mike Tirico
Race caller: Larry Collmus
Streaming: NBC Sports app
Tirico also will be joined by analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, longtime handicapper Eddie Olczyk, and a host of reporters. Also returning to NBC’s horse racing coverage is MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, fresh off covering a special congressional election in New Mexico to picking winners at Belmont Park.
How much will the Belmont Stakes winner take home?
The winner will take home $800,000 from a purse of $1.5 million. That’s split between the owner, trainer, and jockey. The jockey’s agent and the valet also get a cut.
The $800,000 award hasn’t changed since 2014, though last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law took home just $550,000 due to the pandemic.
The second-place team will receive $280,000, while finishing third will net $150,000.
Belmont returns to ‘test of the champion’ distance
After a pandemic-shortened run in 2020, the Belmont Stakes is returning to its traditional “test of the champion” distance on the park’s giant oval, known as “Big Sandy.”
Belmont’s race is 1½ miles, the longest of the three Triple Crown races and often the first time the three-year-old thoroughbreds run such a long distance on dirt.
“We’re kind of in the same boat as everybody here,” France Go de Ina exercise rider Masaki Tanako told reporters through an interpreter. “No one’s run a mile and a half before, so we’re all on the same page.”
The 8 horses and their odds of winning
Essential Quality (2-1)
Hot Rod Charlie (7-2)
France Go De Ina (30-1)
Known Agenda (6-1)
Rock Your World (9-2)
The Associated Press contributed to this report.