Horse Racing Fans Will Talk about 2020 for a Long Time

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker

My, how the Triple Crown trail has changed. It wasn’t that long ago we had a system that was based on Graded Stakes earnings, either as a two-year-old or a three-year-old. That led us to one memorable muddy day at Churchill Downs in 2009. Mine That Bird, a gelding that came from a no-name trainer and a no-name barn, won the Kentucky Derby closing from the Heavens at 50-1. Before the race, there was only one thing anyone could relate to regarding Mine That Bird, and that was his rider Calvin Borel who wasn’t even planning to ride the virtual unknown.

So, how did Mine That Bird get into the Kentucky Derby? He won the Grey Stakes at Woodbine as a two-year-old. That’s how. The graded earnings got him high enough on the list to gain Derby entrance. Mine That Bird cost a whopping $9,500 at auction, and for the most part, he looked to be a disaster as a three-year-old. However, he made it to the Derby and won.

Shortly after Mine That Bird won the Derby a point system was devised. Since 2013 various races have been assigned point totals for the top finishers in the designated events. The points assigned to the races designated is pretty much in line with prestige and purse.

Things changed dramatically in 2020 due to the Coronavirus. With the racing season and Triple Crown turned on its head, the designated races have been juggled to accommodate a new Kentucky Derby date of September 5. Most of the usual major Derby preps will figure into the point system even though some races are yet to be run.

The last few Derby prep races in a normal year usually come as follows: (A) Four to five weeks before the Derby we have the Super Saturday with the Blue Grass (Keeneland), The Wood Memorial (Aqueduct) and the Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita) all on the same day, and (B) the final “biggie” is the Arkansas Derby held a week later.

This year all the big races are in the books except for the Wood Memorial, which was canceled by the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The Arkansas Derby moved its date up to the usual Kentucky Derby date, and that was easy to do since Oaklawn Park was one of the few tracks running. Santa Anita was able to squeeze the Santa Derby in the first week of June. That leaves us with the Blue Grass as the last traditional biggie before the Derby.

Keeneland was able to hold the Blue Grass Stakes on July 11 after the powers-to-be managed to give Keeneland a few days for a spring meet a couple of months later than usual.

The July 11 Blue Grass leaves a long gap before the new Kentucky Derby date of September 5. It was important to do something to replace the Wood Memorial and a few other lesser races that faded into the Corona wind.

Furthermore, some additional opportunities are needed to establish contentious competitors since Bob Baffert’s duo of Nadal (retired) and Charlatan (injured) are off the trail and out of the Derby after sweeping both parts of the divided Arkansas Derby.

Churchill Downs made a smart move by establishing the July 18 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth as a major points race. Then, Churchill did the right thing and included the rich and highly prestigious Travers Stakes as the last major points race, which will be run at Saratoga August 8. The Haskell has a great tradition and history and one of the truly great three-year-old events. The Travers is right up there with the Derby itself in almost all regards.

Churchill Downs seemed to have forced NYRA’s hand when it decided to run the Derby September 5, which was just one week after the usual Travers date of the last Saturday in August. NYRA waited quite a while before the Travers date but it would have been a disaster had they run at the normal date. Either the Travers or the Derby, or most likely both, could have been damaged had the two races been only a week apart.

Not only is the Travers to be the last major points race for Kentucky Derby qualification but it will add another spicy dish to the Triple Crown Buffet. Tiz the Law could change the history books forever. After winning the shortened Belmont stakes, Tiz the Law will aim for the next biggest prize – The Travers. A victory at Saratoga positions him for about a month in between both of the remaining Triple Crown races, a schedule much easier to tolerate than the normal three races in five weeks.

Only one Triple Crown winner has also taken the Travers and that was Whirlaway in 1941. It could be called the Three Year Old Grand Slam. Some have used that moniker for American Pharoah’s feat of winning the Triple Crown and the Breeder’s Cup Classic in the same year.

And what if Tiz The Law wins the Triple Crown and the Travers, then takes the Breeder’s Cup Classic? Just what will we call that? I’m sure someone will think of something and, Tiz The Law may have more asterisks by his name than any horse in history.

Whatever happens, we will be talking about 2020 for a long, long time.

This Year’s Belmont Stakes to Be Run on This Date at This New Distance

152nd Belmont Stakes to be broadcast live on NBC as first leg of the Triple Crown

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced the 152nd renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, to be contested at nine furlongs [from the normal 12 furlongs], will take place on Saturday, June 20 at Belmont Park as the opening leg of the Triple Crown for the first time in history.

To align with required health and safety measures implemented in New York to mitigate risk and combat the spread of COVID-19, the Belmont Stakes will be held without spectators in attendance.

“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times,” said NYRA President & CEO Dave O’Rourke. “While this will certainly be a unique running of this historic race, we are grateful to be able to hold the Belmont Stakes in 2020. Thanks to our partners at NBC Sports, fans across the country can look forward to a day of exceptional thoroughbred racing at a time when entertainment and sports are so important to providing a sense of normalcy.”

Minnesota horse racing is back on.

152nd Belmont Stakes to be run on June 20

As the exclusive broadcast partner of the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown, NBC Sports will present three hours of live coverage from Belmont Park on Saturday, June 20 beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern.

“June Saturdays at Belmont Park always offer terrific racing,” said Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports & NBCSN. “We’re excited to return on June 20 with a three-hour broadcast featuring the 152nd Belmont Stakes.”

Justify winning the Belmont – AP source

Traditionally contested at 1 1/2-miles and held as the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes will be run at a distance of 1 1/8-miles to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.

The revised date and distance for the Belmont Stakes follows the previously announced rescheduling of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, September 5 as well as the rescheduling of the Preakness Stakes from May 16 to October 3.

Initially contested at a distance of 1 5/8-miles at Jerome Park, the first Belmont Stakes was won by Hall of Fame filly Ruthless in 1867. For a two-year period in 1893-94, the Belmont Stakes was run at nine furlongs at Morris Park Racecourse with Comanche winning in 1893 and Hall of Famer Henry of Navarre victorious a year later. The 1 1/2-miles distance was established in 1926.

All Belmont Stakes Racing Festival (BSRF) tickets are subject to full refunds. Fans who purchased directly from the NYRA Box Office or a NYRA sales representative are asked to complete this web form to request a refund or account credit. Fans who purchased BSRF tickets through Ticketmaster will receive an email directing them to log in to their Ticketmaster account to request a refund or credit.

NYRA Bets is the official online wagering site for the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes, and the best way to bet the 2020 Belmont Park spring/summer meet. Available to customers across the United States, NYRA Bets allows horseplayers to watch and wager on racing from tracks around the world at any time. The NYRA Bets app is available for download for iOS and Android at NYRABets.com.

For more information, please visit BelmontStakes.com.

About the Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes is an American tradition inaugurated in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack and moved in 1905 to its familiar home at beautiful Belmont Park. As the traditional third leg of racing’s Triple Crown, the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” as the Belmont Stakes is known, has showcased many of history’s greatest thoroughbreds.

Two of those Triple Crown triumphs have come in the last five years, with American Pharoah ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015 and Justify capping a perfect 6-for-6 career with a Triple Crown-clinching effort in 2018.

About the New York Racing Association

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) holds the exclusive franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

NYRA tracks are the cornerstone of New York State’s thoroughbred industry, which is responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual statewide economic impact.

Accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, NYRA is a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, a group of the nation’s leading racing organizations working collaboratively to advance safety reforms across the sport.

Over the course of 217 days of live racing in 2019, NYRA generated more than $2.1 billion in all-sources wagering handle with paid attendance exceeding 1.5 million.

Horse Racing Opinion Piece: Essential Business

by Art Parker

What is essential? People or a business?

Even though I now play online almost exclusively, I’ve been going to race tracks for decades. Last time I went to a track was last August when I visited my daughter in the Washington D.C. area. We slipped over to Laurel for the Friday afternoon card.

At Laurel that day, I observed the same things I’ve seen for years and years. Track employees and vendors. The people selling beer and hot dogs. People selling programs and Racing Forms. They didn’t charge for general parking but there was still a man at the gate watching cars go by. There were a couple of fellows handling valet parking. Naturally there was security and police as expected.

Empty row of seats at racetrackWe didn’t go where any real meals are served, but I imagine there was plenty of employees taking care of the many chores related to cooking and serving. And of course there were plenty of people constantly cleaning – I guess us horseplayers are just messy folks.

Of course there were pari-mutuel tellers taking bets. The list of people making things happen goes on and on. These people were there because patrons were there. You take away the patrons and all of a sudden a track is a ghost town.

The employees I didn’t mention are there to work – patrons or no patrons.

Here is my beef with the decision to close tracks because of the corona virus. If we race without patrons very little will be different than the days when there is no racing at all. Open the doors, be diligent with all precautions regarding the corona virus, let the patrons play online and let’s run.

Horse racing was slow to embrace television and that probably cost us a generation of potential players. When we caught up with the times and used technology, we held a possible edge – simulcasting and online wagering. In this day and time an enormous percentage of our handle comes from online wagering. I have been told by several that online wagering is now 85%-90% of horse racing’s handle. The sport is staying alive without patrons on site. Why shut it down? The risk for the few people is minimal. I read in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune where top trainer Bob Baffert said, “It’s safer out there (track) than going to a grocery store. Those are packed.”

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I think Baffert is right. In fact, I went to the grocery store yesterday and saw more people in close proximity than one would find in three gate crews.

The most interesting statement I have seen came from Southern California trainer John Sadler, who was quoted in the Press-Telegram as saying, “I don’t see how not racing the horses makes us any safer. This isn’t a factory where you can shut the doors and turn out the lights. People are still going to have to be there to look after these equine athletes.”

I’m sure the real problem with closing race tracks comes from the words “non-essential business” and “essential business.” What is not understood by decision makers is that while a race track may truly not be essential (like a grocery store), it can be closed but still open for business. Why? The non-essential people will not be there if the track is closed to patrons, but the essential people must be there regardless. I don’t know any thoroughbred that can take care of itself. They need to be bathed, groomed, exercised and fed. They can’t pick up the cell and call Pizza Hut to get a pizza delivered to the barn.

Comparatively speaking very few hands are needed if a track is running but closed to patrons. Have you ever been to morning workouts? If so, how many actual track employees were around?

With no patrons in attendance the handle will diminish some – no doubt about it. But purses can be adjusted for that and I promise the horseman would rather run for a little less than not run at all. Don’t forget that 100% of nothing is nothing.

Many horsemen are going to be in dire financial need if they can’t run. Many will go out of business and/or they will need to jettison some stock. Other trainers will not be willing to take stock off their hands because it will only deepen their financial burdens.

The corona virus is very serious and many precautions must be taken. But when it comes to horse racing I don’t think anyone will convince me the open track without patrons is more dangerous than a grocery store full of them inside an enclosed structure.

New Year is Breaking Records Already with The Richest Horse Race Ever

Is Horse Racing Dead?

We are only at the beginning of 2020 and it looks set to be a very exciting year if you are a fan of horse racing. There are already some amazing horse races around the globe but Saudi Arabia is set to become the biggest and best hotspot for the sport, as the richest horse race in the world is set to be held on February 29th in Riyadh.

Confirmed to have a prize pot of $20 million, the Saudi Cup is going to trump any other horse race that has been held in terms of prize money by several million. With prize money like this, you can be sure that this horse race is going to attract some of the biggest and best horses, trainers, and jockeys from all around the world.

With that in mind, continue reading to find out more about the race itself, as well as the horses that are rumored to be entering the mix at the moment.

What is the Saudi Cup?

The Saudi Cup is a nine-furlong race that is going to be run on the dirt track at King Abdulaziz Racetrack. There are going to be a maximum field of 14 starters for the race. There are a number of different opportunities for horses to qualify for the race. For example, the winner of the Pegasus Cup in Florida will be invited to run in the race, even if they have not entered it previously. Furthermore, there is going to be a race held on the 7th of February in Saudi Arabia for Arabian horses to earn the chance to qualify. The winner will secure a position in the world’s richest horse race.

More about the Saudi Cup: