With the Kentucky Derby slated to run on September 5, it’s an excellent time to take a look at a sport that wasn’t affected nearly as much as others following the shutdowns that began occurring on March 13. While college and professional team sports were shut down, many race tracks either continued to operate or shut down for a shorter period of time.

Change in the Triple Crown Schedule

For bettors looking for sports action, it provided one of the only options during pandemic induced pauses in action. Following the Derby will be the Preakness Stakes that will be run on October 3.

While the traditional Triple Crown opener, the Kentucky Derby, was postponed from its typical first Saturday in May date, the Belmont Stakes was run on June 20. The Belmont is usually the last leg, so the pandemic gave the race increased importance that it only enjoys if one horse wins the first two legs and comes to New York with a chance to win the Triple Crown.

The race was shortened from its usual mile and a half to a mile and an eighth. This year the race was won by favorite Tiz the Law by 3 3/4 lengths, solidifying the three-year-old’s position as the top horse of his age in 2020.

Five of the horses that ran at Belmont are currently entered in the Derby, including winner Tiz the Law. Unlike the traditional schedule, this year’s Triple Crown is being contested over the course of 16 weeks instead of the standard five. It’s difficult to predict how that can change the outcome.

One definite difference is that horses had an opportunity for at least one more start between Triple Crown races, which never happens with the usual race schedule. Another impact is that the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the first two legs, are usually separated by only two weeks, which puts additional stress on horses and trainers.

With the schedule more spread out, it allows for ample rest for all involved. This could cut down on some surprises, but then again, it’s still horse racing, which by design produces and benefits from uncertainty.

Since we’re within three weeks of the Kentucky Derby, it’s probably not too early to make an early prediction. Tiz the Law has been spectacular, winning all four of his starts in 2020, the most recent in the Travers Stakes on August 8.

He won going away in a very impressive performance after going off as the 1 -2 favorite. He’ll most likely go off as the odds on favorite again in the Derby, which is the same distance as the Travers. My dark horse is Max Player, who made a late run at the Travers to finish third, the same place he ended up in the Belmont.

Placing Your Bets

With the many restrictions placed on in-person gambling, especially at table games, horse racing provides a terrific on-line betting experience. For anyone looking to get in betting form for the remaining Triple Crown races, there are several tracks currently operating, most without spectators and a reduced racing schedule.

Gulfstream, Saratoga, Del Mar, Charles Town, and Louisiana Downs, among others, provide an excellent opportunity to bet on and view races online, including stakes races that will undoubtedly include many of the top horses. In addition to the top betting sites, including TVG, BetAmerica, and TwinSpires, most tracks have their own applications. Depending on the track, you can also view and bet on races at other locations.

My experience with online horse race betting is great, except that my results weren’t any better than if I’d been at the track. If you fund your account with enough money initially, most sites will provide a bonus amount as an incentive.

As with any betting experience, it’s important to budget appropriately and only wager money that you can afford to lose. I live about three and a half hours from the closest track to me, and since I love the sport, I much prefer live racing and the excitement it provides. But in this time of exercising caution and social distancing, I see online horse race betting to be a great and convenient alternative.