Belmont Park Reopens With A Bang Ahead Of Belmont Stakes

FairwayJay takes a look at the return of racing at Belmont Park ahead of the June 20 Belmont Stakes

Horse Racing Returns to New York and Belmont Park. Huge Saturday June 6 Racing at Belmont and Santa Anita

There were no thunderous roars from screaming fans at Belmont Park's reopening Wednesday. Spectator free racing returned and so did the heavy rain by the second race, turning the main track track into a "good" surface. But professional sports were back in New York, where COVID-19 has hit heaviest. 

New York became the last major circuit to resume live racing in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. The abbreviated 25-day spring/summer meet started June 3 following an 11-week shutdown. A total of 40 stakes races in those 25 racing days includes 22 graded stakes, and at least one stakes race is run each day of the meet.

Racing fans didn't need to be at the track to place a wager, but they bet at leading online sportsbooks and major online platforms like TVG and TwinSpires. By the end of the final race 10, the all-sources handle was $10.9 million to break the previous Opening Day record of $10.7 million in 2010. Last year's Opening Day handle was $5.4 million.

So as major sports remain shutdown but ready to resume play in July and August ahead of the biggest bet football season, betting is brisk at the race tracks where horses are running. The upcoming weekend horse racing includes four grades stakes races in a row starting in Race 6 at Belmont Park. Included is the Carter Handicap (G2) in Race 9, a "Win and You're In" race and automatic qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Sprint Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Those races are also part of the guaranteed payout of the Empire 6 jackpot covering the final six races at Belmont Saturday. 

We're likely to see a betting handle in excess of $14 million this Saturday at Belmont Park. That figure would exceed both Santa Anita and Churchill Downs highest handle in a day when those historic tracks recently reopened.  

Derby prep racesAlso this weekend is the Santa Anita Derby, a major prep and points race (100-40-20-10) for the top four finishers on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which is now Sept. 5. You can follow the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and points race, where 10 horses already have enough points to qualify for the 20-horse field in the 2020 Kentucky Derby. You can check out the Daily Racing Form entries list each day for racing including Saturday at Santa Anita and Belmont, where the weekend's biggest and most bet races will take place. Seven stakes races are on the huge Saturday card at Santa Anita headlined by the two Grade 1 events in the Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Gold Cup. Also, the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks is a major points qualifying race for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. 

Authentic (4/5) is the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby and already has enough qualifying points to run in the Kentucky Derby. Leading online sportsbooks BetOnline and have Kentucky Derby futures odds of 7-1 on Authentic to win the 2020 Kentucky Derby. But Honor A. P. (9/5) is the top challenger in the seven horse Santa Anita Derby field and he needs a top-2 finish to earn his way to Louisville for the 2020 Run for the Roses, or an in-the-money finish in another upcoming Derby prep race this summer. Honor A.P. is 22-1 on the Kentucky Derby futures board at BetOnline and also 16-1 on current fixed odds to win the Belmont Stakes. Leading online sportsbooks are offering welcome back bonuses as major sports return, including with a $1,000 Bet on Baseball bonus.   

The Blue Grass Stakes (Keeneland) and Haskell Invitational (Monmouth) in July are the other top points races (100-40-20-10) remaining for Kentucky Derby. The Shared Belief Stakes (Del Mar) and Ellis Park Derby are the last significant points races (50-20-10-5) in August. 

Belmont Stakes racingBut the biggest race ahead this summer is June 20 for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1), which could draw a record field. More trainers are expected to enter horses with the shorter 1 1/8 mile distance. Currently the possible/probable field of entries is 10-11 runners, and the record is 15 entries in the 1983 Belmont Stakes. This year's runners won't face the traditional 1.5 mile 'Test of the Champion.' The Belmont Stakes is also a Kentucky Derby qualifying race, offering the most points on the Derby trail with a top-4 finish points breakdown of 150-60-30-16. The top-2 finishers not already qualified (likely 60+ points) will earn a spot in the starting gate for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby. 

Belmont Park and the Belmont Stakes will lead much of the sports talk and sports betting over the next two weeks as the Sport of Kings resumes racing at more tracks on the 'Road to Recovery' and the Kentucky Derby.

You can bet on it. 

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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