Secretariat Triple Crown Celebration at Belmont Subdued by Death and Air Quality
This was supposed to be the year thoroughbred racing celebrated the 50th anniversary of Secretariats magnificent Triple Crown triumph as the current crop of 3-year-olds finished their run on center stage.
Heading into the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, the racing has become almost an afterthought as the public has focused on a recent spike in deaths of horses at racetracks and air quality problems in the northeast caused by wildfires in Canada. And there is no Secretariat on the scene to make everyone forget the issues.
A highly competitive field of nine led by 2-year-old champion Forte and Preakness winner National Treasure is set to run in the 1 1/2 miles test of champions on a card that features almost all stakes races.
At least one problem disappeared Friday as live racing resumed at Belmont Park thanks to a major improvement in air quality. The heavy smoke had forced the track to cancel Thursday and prompted New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to warn Saturday's racing could be affected if conditions didn't improve.