At the risk of stating the obvious, this year’s Triple Crown became something different from what we were used to the minute that Churchill Downs announced that it would host the Kentucky Derby on September 5.
We’d suspected before that, of course. A month before the traditional Derby date, virtually the entire country was limiting social contact in an effort to combat a virus that had exhibited an impressive ability to make its presence known and about which we knew far too little. What we did know was that having tens of thousands of people in one place was definitely not a good idea.
At first, prep races were held without on-site customers. Then some prep races were canceled altogether. Oaklawn Park carpe diemed, seizing the day of the Kentucky Derby to hold its own Arkansas Derby.
In the meantime, Maryland and New York, two states with devastatingly high numbers of Covid-19 infection, had to sit idly by, unable to make any definite plans until their respective states gave them permission to.
On Saturday morning, May 16, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s racetracks could re-open as of June 1. Later that day, The Stronach Group released the date of the Preakness Stakes: October 3, the first Saturday in October, a month after the Kentucky Derby.
Wait… does that mean if a horse wins the Triple Crown, he gets an asterisk? The Derby winner will be running on four weeks’ rest, not two. Maybe the Derby winner won’t even run in the Preakness and train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic? The Triple Crown hand-wringing had begun.
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