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Belmont Stakes to be held without spectators as the first leg of the Triple Crown

Horses will come out of the gate at the Belmont Stakes but there will be no fans to watch them. By Wayne Sterling and Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) -- The Belmont Stakes, one of horse-racing's biggest events, will take place without spectators in attendance on June 20 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The decision to hold the annual event at all is a hopeful signal for Americans looking for a return to sports normalcy. While team sports with close human contact like the NBA, MLB and NHL have been indefinitely postponed, individual, open-air sports like tennis, golf, NASCAR and now horse-racing have returned or plan to do so in the coming weeks.

The Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 20, at Belmont Park in Elmont, and it will be run at a mile and an eighth instead of the usual mile and a half length. The race will take place two weeks later than originally scheduled.

"The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times," said NYRA President & CEO Dave O'Rourke. "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."

With the date set, the Belmont Stakes will be the opening leg of horse racing's Triple Crown for the first time in history. Traditionally, the Belmont Stakes is the third leg of the Triple Crown after the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but those were both postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kentucky Derby is scheduled for September 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Preakness Stakes is slated for October 3 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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