Kentucky Derby Pushed Back – Now What?
If you’ve come to Cappers Picks looking for some good news with regards to Betting On The 2020 Kentucky Derby we’re afraid we don’t have any good news for you. May 2, 2020 is when the race was supposed to happen, but the announcement earlier this week that the 2020 Kentucky Derby would be moved from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September – September 5, to be exact – has thrown the horse racing world for a loop and raised a whole host of questions.
While not entirely unexpected given the impact the COVID-19 virus is having on the world in general and sporting events in particular, moving the Derby date marks a huge break with tradition. The Derby has been run in the first Saturday of May every year since 1946, while the Triple Crown format of the Derby being run first, followed by the Preakness Stakes, followed by the Belmont Stakes has been in place even longer, since 1931, although the actual race dates did vary over the years between 1931 and 1946.
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So with the Derby date now having been moved, it leads to questions such as what will happen with the Triple Crown series? And what effect will moving the Derby date have on other big races?
One of the issues facing US horse racing in answering these questions is that, unlike other league sports or something like the PGA, there is no one “Commissioner” or Board of Governors that oversees the sport and can make the decisions for everyone.
Instead, horse racing in the US is essentially run by a large number of independent operators. For example, all decisions regarding the Kentucky Derby are made by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), which also owns the track. The Stronach Group (TSG) owns Pimlico Race Track and thus is solely in charge of the Preakness Stakes. And Belmont Park is owned and operated by the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which in turn makes all decisions regarding the Belmont Stakes.
What this means is that just because CDI made the decision to move the Kentucky Derby to September, there’s no obligation on either The Stronach Group or NYRA to follow suit with the Preakness and Belmont and retain the traditional Triple Crown series format.
At the same time, in every one of these cases, race dates at specific tracks have to be approved by state legislators. For example, it’s the government of the state of New York that approves X number of race days to be held at Belmont Park between such-and-such dates. Typically these approvals are granted six months to a year ahead of time, and to make adjustments or add extra dates requires state government approval.
To even further muddy the waters, the broadcast rights to the Triple Crown are owned by NBC. As of right now, it sounds like all of the various players have started discussions regarding the Preakness and Belmont, and some sort of decision is expected by next week at the latest.
In addition to the Belmont Stakes, the NYRA is also in charge of racing at Saratoga Race Track, which hosts the Travers Stakes scheduled for August 29. Often referred to as “The Mid-Summer Derby” the $1.5 million Travers is, like the Derby, also restricted to three-year old horses, and quite often features the Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners meeting again for the first time since the conclusion of the Triple Crown.
Outside of the Triple Crown races it’s the biggest race of the year for three-year-olds, but most of them would not run it if they’re slated to run in the Derby just a week later. So there’s a good chance the date for the Travers will change as well. But as noted above, it’s not a straight-forward process to make that kind of change.
For one thing, the NYRA has to be mindful of the fact that many people purchase Travers tickets and make travel plans as much as a year in advance. Saratoga Springs is a relatively small city and during the summer race meet hotel rooms are very difficult to come by. It might just not be fair to race fans to have their plans to attend the race suddenly upended.
Having said all of that, there may be a silver lining here for the sport. One scenario that could play out is to have the Travers moved to late July and to have it serve as the final prep race for several horses going to the Derby. Then the Preakness and Belmont are moved to September 19 and October 10, respectively, keeping the usual Triple Crown format.
The Triple Crown would then be followed one month later by the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, on November 6 and 7 at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky.
What that would mean is that for roughly three months all of the biggest and most popular races in the US would be coming almost one right after the other and put racing squarely in the focus of sports fans and sports bettors throughout the late summer and early fall.
Where do things stand as of March 18th 2020 you ask? As of now, racing will be going on at all the major tracks including Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, Aqueduct, Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs.
That’s all we can tell you right now…stay tuned for more info as we get it.
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