Preakness Stakes postponed due to COVID-19, new date to be determined

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The 145th Preakness Stakes, which was set for Saturday, May 16 at Pimlico Race Course, will run at a later date due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The new date will be determined based on “best practices from local and governmental health authorities to protect our community,” according to the Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico and several other tracks around the country.

InfieldFest, which happens during and in the middle of the Preakness, has been canceled. Musician and DJ Marshmello was set to headline.

On March 17, the Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to September 5, marking only the third time in history that the race hasn’t been run during the month of May.

“We believe that moving our iconic event to Labor Day Weekend this year will enable our country to have time to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said. “This will also provide our guests more time to reschedule their travel and hotel arrangements so they can attend.”

The Preakness typically follows the Kentucky Derby as the second leg of the Triple Crown. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is exploring a new date for the Belmont Stakes, the final Triple Crown race, as well.

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life, decisions about large-scale public events must prioritize public health and safety above all else,” the NYRA said in a statement. “NYRA will deliver an announcement only when that process has concluded to the satisfaction of state and local health departments. The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution with wide-reaching economic impact. We look forward to its 152nd edition in 2020.”

If the Triple Crown races were to maintain their typical spacing, the Preakness would fall on September 19 with the Belmont on October 10.

The majority of U.S. race tracks have halted live racing, though a select few tracks like Gulfstream and Oaklawn are still racing. On April 2, Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, Calif. announced they would temporarily close live racing due to COVID-19. Aqueduct Racetrack in New York has been turned into a temporary field hospital.

Last week, Santa Anita shut down all live racing by order from the Los Angeles County Health Department. However, the track, as well as fans, have continuously asked the government to allow racing to resume, including through a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times put out by Belinda Stronach, CEO of The Stronach Group, which also owns Santa Anita Park.

According Stronach, over 1700 horses live at Santa Anita and require daily care, exercise and medical attention. “Racehorses are conditioned athletes and standing in a stall without daily exercise is detrimental to their health, safety and welfare,” Stronach added.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.