A shorter Belmont Stakes will be first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown this year

  • Justify crosses the finish line to win the Triple Crown at the 150th Belmont Stakes, in Elmont, N.Y., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. This year's Belmont will be run without spectators on June 20, 2020. (David Wexler/New York Daily News/TNS)

LOS ANGELES — For the first time in history, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. The New York Racing Association announced on Tuesday that the race will be held on June 20 at a distance of 1 1/8 miles, rather than the traditional 1 1/2 miles.

The Kentucky Derby has been moved from May 2 to Sept. 5 and the Preakness Stakes from May 16 to Oct. 3. The Belmont, originally scheduled for June 6, will be run without spectators.

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The date could prove problematic to horses that were expected to run in the Santa Anita Derby, also 1 1/8 miles, on June 6. While horses can run on two weeks’ rest, trainers prefer to bring horses back after a month without racing, especially if their previous race was taxing. Owners and trainers on the West Coast will likely have to choose between the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby or the $1 million Belmont Stakes.

Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman said track administrators thought the Belmont Stakes would also be run in June and doesn’t think it will lose any top horses with previous Santa Anita Derby plans.

“We believe Authentic stays,” Willman said of the likely Santa Anita Derby favorite trained by Bob Baffert.

John Shirreffs, the trainer of contender Honor A.P., said his horse will run in the Santa Anita Derby.

“I think it’s certainly better to support Santa Anita than going somewhere else,” Shirreffs said. “If you have a neighborhood market and all leave, how’s it going to stay in business?”

New York officials believe their race will remain important for 3-year-olds.

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“The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times,” said Dave O’Rourke, chief executive of NYRA. “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.”

The race will be worth qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, with the winner getting 150 and 60-30-15 will go to the next three finishers. The Santa Anita Derby has a points structure of 100-40-20-10.

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