US Triple Crown – new dates and key horses

Bob Baffert at Churchill Downs

The Classic season has been turned upside down in the USA due to the coronavirus pandemic with races postponed and altered to reflect the changing times.

The three legs of the US Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes – are usually run between the start of May and the beginning of June, but not this year. Here is how the revised schedule looks for 2020.

Belmont Stakes – June 20

Normally the final leg of the Triple Crown and run over 1m4f at Belmont Park in New York on the first Saturday in June, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg of the Triple Crown this year.

The $1 million dirt race will be run over 1m1f instead and behind-closed-doors, making it a considerably different challenge to the previous runnings of the race.

Belmont Park has been the scene of wild celebrations in 2015 and 2018 when American Pharoah and Justify completed the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes. The race was also famously won by 31-lengths when Secretariat triumphed in 1973.

Kentucky Derby – September 5

Known as ‘the run for the roses’, the Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious race in the USA and traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Up to 150,000 attend the 1m2f dirt contest under normal circumstances with the race kicking off the Triple Crown following months of build up and anticipation.

Preakness Stakes – October 3

This year’s final Classic race is normally the middle leg and run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and two weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

Run at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland, the Preakness Stakes is a 1m1f contest run on dirt.

The race was famously won by filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009 when she became the first filly to defeat the colts in the race for 85 years.

Leading Triple Crown contenders

The big names going for Classic glory this season are Charlatan, Tiz The Law and Nadal.

Charlatan and Nadal are trained by America’s pre-eminent handler Bob Baffert. Based in California, Baffert trained American Pharoah and Justify to Triple Crown glory.

Charlatan and Nadal each won a division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, a major Classic trial, this month, while Tiz The Law, trained by veteran handler Barclay Tagg, was a brilliant winner of the Florida Derby, a race that has a good record of producing top three-year-olds.

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