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Will there even be a Triple Crown this year?

It’s not surprising in a year in which the world has been turned upside down that the Triple Crown picture has been distorted as well.

The displacement of the Kentucky Derby from its historic perch on the first Saturday in May until the first Saturday in September has created a cascade effect on the 3-year-olds who reliably capture most of the nation’s attention. So jumbled is the picture that it’s not even clear when — or if — all three Triple Crown races will be run this year.

The Florida Derby, in most years one of the key final prep races for the Derby, went off as scheduled last weekend, with Tiz the Law establishing himself as a solid Triple Crown contender with a convincing victory.

But the Santa Anita Derby has been postponed and the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes canceled because the tracks that hosted them have been shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Arkansas Derby, the other major final Derby prep, has been moved to the original Kentucky Derby date of May 2, when it will be run – presumably without fans – at Oaklawn Park.

Also unclear is what will become of the other Triple Crown races: the Preakness and Belmont stakes.

Officials in Baltimore said this week that the Preakness also would likely be pushed to September, though no date was set.

The Belmont also was postponed, but where is there a spot on the calendar? Assuming the Preakness was run two weeks after the Derby, on Saturday, Sept. 19, followed by the usual three-week break until the “Test of the Champion,” that would push the race to Oct. 10, less than a month before the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on Nov. 6-7. That would virtually preclude any Belmont runners from participating in the latter.

And we haven’t even begun to address how the Travers’ Stakes at Saratoga, scheduled for Aug. 29, might be impacted.

So many questions as the racing landscape reshapes itself to accommodate the global crisis. But as is typical in times of uncertainty, those who adapt and reset to the new reality may just be able to make hay out of a calamity.

New handicapping contest starting

The #RJhorseracing handicappers are enjoying a rare week off and preparing for the next three-month handicapping contest.

That means it’s a great time to sign up for the next round, which will begin next week assuming the handful of racetracks still operating aren’t forced to close in the meantime, as happened with Golden Gate Fields on Thursday. It’s not a big time commitment, and participants receive free past performances (courtesy of Equibase.com) for two races each week for dissection. Best of all, the winner will receive a semi-fabulous prize TBD.

So what are you waiting for? Simply send me an email or follow me on Twitter and let me know you’d like to get involved.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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