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What to know before the 153rd Belmont Stakes kicks off

NBC SPORTS – The Belmont Stakes returns to early June and closes out a dramatic 2021 Triple Crown, only on NBC Sports.

The 153rd Belmont Stakes airs on Saturday, June 5 from 3-5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 5-7 p.m. on NBC. Coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app. NBC Sports will also broadcast from Belmont Park on Friday, June 4 from 5-6 p.m. ET with live racing, insider previews, and expert betting tips.

What started as a much-anticipated return to normal on the First Saturday in May turned into controversy when, eight days after the 147th Kentucky Derby, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert announced his Derby winner Medina Spirit had failed a post-race drug test. The Florida-born colt tested positive for 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone, which was later revealed to be from a topical ointment called Otomax used to treat dermatitis on his hind end, NBC Sports reports.

Churchill Downs immediately suspended him from running any horses at the track, and the Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club set terms, including vigorous drug testing, for Baffert in order to run Medina Spirit in the Preakness the following Saturday.

On Saturday, May 15 in Maryland, Michael McCarthy‘s under-the-radar runner Rombauer romped past favorites Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon to win the 146th Preakness Stakes.

The New York Racing Association has banned Baffert, pending further investigation into Medina Spirit’s post-Derby drug test.

Just days before the 2021 Belmont Stakes on June 2, Medina Spirit’s positive drug test was confirmed, and Churchill Downs issued a two-year suspension for Baffert. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission could disqualify Medina Spirit, elevating second-place finisher Mandaloun to first.

At least 11,000 fans are expected to attend the Belmont Stakes.

What is the Belmont Stakes?

The Belmont Stakes is traditionally the last leg of the American Triple Crown of horse racing. Like the Derby and the Preakness, it’s a Grade I Thoroughbred stakes races. The Belmont Stakes is 1 1/2 miles, or 12 furlongs, which makes it the longest race in the Triple Crown.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Belmont Stakes was the first Triple Crown race run and was moved back from Saturday, June 6 to Saturday, June 20, and the race was shortened to 1 1/8-miles (9 furlongs) “to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training,” the New York Racing Association said in a statement.

The Belmont is run on the dirt track at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, according to NBC Sports. It was first raced in 1867, making it the oldest jewel in the Triple Crown (and the fourth oldest race in North America). However, the race wasn’t run in 1911 or 1912, which is why the Kentucky Derby is still the longest continuous sporting event in the country. The Belmont has always been run in or around New York City, having raced at Jerome Park (now closed), Morris Park (also closed), and Aqueduct in addition to Belmont, which is just east of Queens.

When is the 2021 Belmont Stakes?

The 153rd Belmont Stakes is on Saturday, June 5. NBC Sports will broadcast live from Belmont Park on June 5 from 3-5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 5-7 p.m. on NBC. Post time is set for approximately 6:49 p.m.

How can I watch the 2021 Belmont Stakes?

NBC is home to the 153rd Belmont Stakes, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live before, during and after the main event. Get started with NBCSN on Friday, June 4 from 5 to 6 p.m. ET. NBCSN coverage continues on Saturday, June 5 at 3 p.m. before moving to NBC at 5 p.m. All coverage is available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app as well.

Who are the horses to watch in the Belmont?

  • Preakness champ Rombauer could keep the good times rolling two weeks after he earned trainer Michael McCarthy his first career Triple Crown win. He will be without Preakness jockey Flavien Prat (who heads back to his Derby mount Hot Rod Charlie), but two-time Belmont winner (filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and Union Rags 2012) John Velazquez will have the ride.
  • Essential Quality, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, looks to right his reputation after an underwhelming fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, where he was also the favorite. This will be trainer Brad Cox’s Belmont Debut. Jockey Luis Saez could earn his first Triple Crown win after he finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby aboard Maximum Security before being disqualified for interference.
  • Feel-good Wood Memorial upset winner Bourbonic is back in the Triple Crown after finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby and skipping the Preakness. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche makes his debut in the final leg of the Triple Crown, while trainer Todd Pletcher seeks his fourth Belmont win (Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013, Tapwrit in 2017). Bourbonic could become the third Belmont winner for Calumet Farm, which boasts Triple Crown winners Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948). The farm has yet to have a horse win any leg of the Triple Crown since Brad Kelley took ownership in 2012.
  • Hot Rod Charlie finished a strong third in the Kentucky Derby a month ago for trainer Doug O’Neill and his nephew Patrick O’Neill, who is part owner through Boat Racing. He previously won the Louisiana Derby in March and rocked the 2020 Breeders’ Cup when he took second in the Juvenile at a whopping 94-1.
  • Longshot France Go de Ina (30-1) has a chance at history—a win in the 2021 Belmont would make him the first Japan-based horse to win the race, which would come with a $1 million bonus from the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The last foreign winner of the Belmont came in 1990 when Ireland-based Go and Go took first. His trainer Hideyuki Mori became the first Japanese trainer to train a Derby horse when he ran Ski Captain in 1995.

What is unique about the Belmont Stakes?

The Belmont is the final test for horses seeking a Triple Crown title. Horses have an additional week of rest between races as opposed to the Preakness, but the Belmont is also the longest race of the three.

Belmont Park is only a few miles away from New York City, and city dwellers can just hop on the Long Island Rail Road for a day at the races. In non-COVID years, the annual Belmont Festival features several days packed with racing and other events.

Who won the 2020 Belmont Stakes?

Barclay Tagg’s Tiz the Law kicked off a scrambled 2020 Triple Crown by becoming the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont Stakes since Forester in 1882. Ownership group Sackatoga Stable previously partnered with Tagg to field unlikely 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide. Tiz the Law went on to win the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in convincing fashion. He headed south to Churchill Downs as the favorite in the 146th Kentucky Derby but fell short behind eventual Horse of the Year Authentic. After finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he was retired to stud at Ashford Stud, Coolmore’s stateside breeding operation.

The post What to know before the 153rd Belmont Stakes kicks off appeared first on NBC2 News.

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