By Bill Finley
The GI Preakness S. will be run at Pimlico on Oct. 3, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced on NBC Saturday on what would have been Preakness Day under normal circumstances.
The announcement confirmed a report from earlier in the week from WBAL, the NBC affiliate in Baltimore.
With Churchill Downs having announced that the GI Kentucky Derby will be run Sept. 5, among the Triple Crown races, only the GI Belmont S. has yet to be scheduled. While NYRA officials have not made an official announcement regarding the timing of the Belmont, it appears they are serious about running the race in June.
An announcement concerning the date for the 2020 Belmont could come as early as Tuesday.
To run the Belmont in its traditional spot in the Triple Crown order, the race would have to be squeezed between the Preakness and the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup. It’s difficult to imagine NYRA choosing that spot on the calendar. Another option would be to run the Belmont after the Breeders’ Cup, meaning it would have to be run at Aqueduct and during a time of year when weather could be an issue. That also seems like an unlikely option.
If running the Belmont in June, NYRA must also decide whether or not to shorten the race, either to a mile-and-an-eighth or a mile-and-a-quarter.
“I am happy that it is now official and we have more certainty,” said Jack Knowlton, the co-owner of GI Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law (Constitution). “We’re just looking for the last piece of the puzzle, which is what are they going to do with the Belmont? From everything I can gather and logically speaking, it’s going to be run near the end of June. There’s going to be decent spacing between all these races, unlike the five-week gauntlet that is the normal Triple Crown.”
Hogan was introduced by Stronach Group Chairman & President Belinda Stronach just after NBC concluded a repeat of the broadcast of the 2015 Preakness won by American Pharoah.
“Under normal circumstances I would be standing today at Pimlico with (Belinda Stronach) presenting the Woodlawn trophy to winner of the 145th Preakness S.,” Hogan said. “As we all know these are not ordinary circumstances. However, I am proud to make this announcement on behalf of the state, the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland’s historic racing industry that Preakness 145 will be held at Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Maryland on Oct. 3. We look forward to celebrating with you soon.”
Stronach issued a statement, which read: “We all wish we could have been together today to celebrate the Preakness but we stayed home and stayed safe and now we can look forward to Preakness 145 on Oct. 3,” Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of TSG, said. “I would like to thank Governor Hogan and all of the state and local leaders along with our industry stakeholders, racetrack communities and partners, including our broadcast partner NBC Sports, for the ongoing support and commitment to racing in Maryland.”
The Preakness has been run on the third Saturday in May every year since 1946. It has not always been the second leg in the Triple Crown. In 1930, Gallant Fox swept a Triple Crown series that started with the Preakness.
“This will be weird, but I will take it. I don’t really know what else to think other than I hope I am there for those races,” said Bob Baffert, whose stable includes at least three top contenders for the Triple Crown races. “I think the Preakness will have a good field, with a lot of horses. You’re not going to be worried about having to run a mile-and-a-half in a few weeks, so I think a lot more horses from the Derby will come right back.”
Like all trainers with top 3-year-old colts, Baffert will have to figure out how to keep horses that are blossoming in May at the top of their game through, at the very least, October.
“We will just have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s still going to be difficult to win all three and the Derby will still be the hardest one to win. I’m just happy racing is getting back to more normalcy. But until the owners can come out and watch their horses run it will still be weird. I want the fun to come back. The later the dates of these races, the better chance we will have of the fun being back.”
The other question that remains to be answered is if fans will be allowed to attend the Preakness or any of the Triple Crown races. Last month, Pimlico announced that the lineup of infield festivities has been canceled.
Hogan has yet to announce when racing, without spectators, can resume in the state.