Although hardest hit among all states during the COVID-19 pandemic, New York welcomes Thoroughbred action back on Wednesday when Belmont Park starts a condensed spring/summer meet of 25 days. After one five-day race week, Belmont reverts to a Thursday-to-Sunday schedule next week and through July 12.
The compressed schedule and less purse money available has resulted in some graded stakes being postponed or put on hiatus, while most out of necessity have found a new position on the calendar for this unique meet.
On the plus side, stakes lovers should relish that at least one is scheduled every racing day.
The $1 million Belmont S. (G1), now scheduled for June 20, is again the meet highlight and for the first time will be run as the first leg of the Triple Crown. It’s also been reduced in distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8 miles.
Saturdays during the meet will be particularly stakes-heavy, including the Independence Day program on July 4 which features the Metropolitan (G1) and Manhattan (G1), normally Belmont Stakes Day features, as well as the 1 1/4-mile Suburban (G2).
An excellent opening day feature, the $100,000 Beaugay (G3) for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on the turf has attracted a select field of six, including the multiple Grade 1 winners Rushing Fall and Got Stormy.
Saturday of Belmont Park Opening Week
The first Saturday of the meet should be a blockbuster with four graded stakes on tap: the Carter H. (G1), Fort Marcy (G2), Westchester (G3), and Intercontinental (G3). Although the Carter is the official feature, the 1 1/16-mile Westchester is expected to be the 2020 starting point for one of last year’s top 3-year-olds, Code of Honor.
Trainer Shug McGaughey has another potential star 4-year-old in Performer, who impressively captured his stakes debut last fall in the Discovery (G3) and will take on a field of crack 7-furlong specialists in the Carter. Others pointing for the Met Mile prep are Firenze Fire, Mind Control, and Vekoma.
Other Grade 1 highlights during the meet are the Ogden Phipps on June 13; the Acorn, Woody Stephens, and Jaipur on the June 20 Belmont Stakes undercard; and the Just a Game on June 27.