The New York Racing Association said Tuesday it still intends to run the Belmont Stakes this year but that the date could change.
The Belmont Stakes, scheduled for June 6, is the third leg of horse racing’s triple crown and draws crowds as large as 100,000 to the open-air racetrack in Elmont. The Kentucky Derby, originally scheduled for May 2, was postponed until Sept. 5 because of the concerns and restrictions placed on large gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"NYRA is working closely with all appropriate parties, including media rights holder NBC Sports, to make a determination about the timing of the 2020 Belmont Stakes,” NYRA chief executive officer Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else. NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments.”
The last time the Belmont Stakes was not run was 1912 when the race took a two-year break due to anti-gambling legislation in New York.
“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact,” O’Rourke added. “We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020."
Aqueduct races on
Aqueduct Racetrack will continue to race on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through March 29. The track is closed "to all fans, owners and nearly all employees to reduce the number of people gathered to only those who are required under the rules of New York racing," NYRA spokesman Pat McKenna said. That keeps the number of people within the state's ban on large gatherings of no more than 50 people.
McKenna said NYRA is trying to keep the live races going until the scheduled end of the winter meet because the industry supports jobs throughout the state.
"Opening Aqueduct, and racetracks across the country, supports horsemen and their businesses, racetrack employees and the backstretch community," McKenna said. "The uncertainty we are facing as a country right now is without precedent and its effect on the economy is surely to be immense."