1/ST Racing Considering Moving The Date Of Preakness Stakes 

Written By Sam Hollingsworth on August 16, 2023 - Last Updated on August 17, 2023
Preakness possible change

To the surprise of much of the horse racing world, the possibility of major scheduling changes for the Triple Crown are being considered, at least to some degree.

Despite no apparent or glaring issues with the current, long-standing schedule, 1/ST Racing — the organization that owns and operates Pimlico Race Course and Maryland horse racing’s famed Preakness Stakes — has announced the possibility of running the second jewel of the Triple Crown on a later date, thus shaking up the traditional timeline of America’s most coveted prize in the Sport of Kings.

“We have discussed it internally and believe it’s in the best interests of horses and horse safety to move the race four weeks after the Kentucky Derby,” Chief Executive Officer of 1/ST Racing & Gaming Aidan Butler told Thoroughbred Daily News recently.

This “discussion,” according to officials of 1/ST Racing, is in preliminary stages and has been informal in nature. But, any revisions made to the schedule would have a domino effect for the Triple Crown itself, and also for the organization that runs the Belmont Stakes, New York Racing Association (NYRA), as well as the racing season as a whole.

So, there continues to be a considerable response — both for and against these changes — from the many different people connected to racing. From trainers, jockeys, and ownership connections all the way down to the people who work on the frontside up to those who operate the racetracks and make major decisions. Nothing seems off the table at this point, but far less seems certain.

Proposed Change to Triple Crown Schedule and What it Means

While it has been informally debated and discussed for decades, no real change for action has come about nor was one really expected to come forward in 2023.

Moving the Preakness Stakes back an additional two weeks — putting four weeks total between it and the Derby — would force either a change to the date of Belmont Stakes and the spacing between it and the other two races the make up the Triple Crown or, in a worst-case scenario, could break up the Triple Crown completely due to a lack of cohesiveness on something that undoubtedly requires it.

“Discussion around spacing out the schedule of the Triple Crown is nothing new, and we believe the time has come to advance those discussions to the next step,” Butler said in a statement recently. “Allowing additional time between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes would give horses a greater opportunity to prepare and be ready between the Derby and the second leg of the Triple Crown.”

In addition to upending the current Triple Crown schedule, scheduling changes would likely affect how a racehorse’s 3-year-old season would be expected to play out, too.

To no surprise, NYRA is not on board with any major changes to the Triple Crown or its scheduling.

“NYRA has concerns about fundamental changes to the structure of the Triple Crown,” NYRA spokesperson Pat McKenna said in response to the informal proposal mentioned by 1/ST Racing. “We have no plans to move the date of the Belmont Stakes.”

Why consider a Preakness scheduling change?

The biggest reason for the potential scheduling change is how the Triple Crown has evolved over time for those who decide what horses to run and when. And trainers more commonly choosing to skip the second leg.

Many trainers have opted to skip the Preakness in recent years after running in the Kentucky Derby (if they don’t win, at least usually) to help rest their horses a bit ahead of the final Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes. That is, if those horses’ connections chose to continue on the Triple Crown journey at all after not winning the Derby.

1/ST Racing referred directly to horse safety when asked about the changes in an interview with Thoroughbred Daily News, saying it is “in the best interests of horses.”

If the proposed changes came to fruition, the Triple Crown schedule, which currently spans five weeks, would likely total seven or eight weeks. And that would likely also be a best-case-scenario if 1/ST does, in fact, move the Preakness back.

But it surely does change the rare feat that the Triple Crown is, so uncommon to be achieved and largely because of the tough timeline.

Another, less ideal option would be that 1/ST moves the Preakness and NYRA stands firm with the Belmont. So, the Preakness could take place four weeks after the Derby and the Belmont stays put.

It’s unclear which is more likely, but right now, NYRA seems far from considering a change, let alone making one.

Triple Crown dates have been shuffled before

While actually changing the Triple Crown timeline would be a huge ordeal, it’s not exactly unheard of.

The current five-week schedule has been in place since 1969. And, from 1932 to 2019, the Kentucky Derby has consistently been run first, followed by the Preakness, then the Belmont.

Most recently in 1931, and on 10 other previous occasions, the Preakness was actually run before the Derby. In 1917 and 1922, the Preakness and Derby were even run on the same day.

And, of course, major world events have shifted the dates of the races, too.

World War II moved the Kentucky Derby from May to June in 1945. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 Triple Crown to change its scheduling around dramatically, marking the first time the Belmont was ever run first of the three races.

It’s not something that’s never happened before and, while most would probably have preferred no changes to the schedule like we were forced into in 2020, it’s gone over relatively easily on a temporary scale.

A permanent change is a much bigger concept.

“We recognize that modifying the schedule for the Preakness Stakes could have implications, and we look forward to engaging with all stakeholders to work through questions and concerns,” Butler said recently. “The future of the Triple Crown is best decided collectively, but we are committed to seeing this conversation through to a positive result.”

Photo by Nick Wass / Associated Press
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Sam Hollingsworth

Sam is a native New Yorker with a long history of sports betting as well as watching, wagering, and owning racehorses, and, of course, casino-frequenting. He enjoys visiting sporting venues — anything from the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to any baseball game regardless of the level of play or length of the drive to get there, and any horse racing venue. Sam is a marketing executive, father and dog owner with a zest for life and love for exploring.

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