Group may move date of Preakness

LOS ANGELES -- The Stronach Group, which upended California racing a few weeks ago by announcing it was closing Golden Gate Fields, threw another stunner into the horse racing landscape when its chief racing executive suggested it may move the Preakness Stakes to four weeks after the Kentucky Derby.

Currently, the Preakness is two weeks after the Derby and the Belmont Stakes follows three weeks after that. Because of the short two-week turnaround, most horses that run in the Kentucky Derby, except the winner, tend to skip the Preakness and point to the Belmont.

Aidan Butler, chief executive of 1/ST Racing, said the move should be made in the interest of horse safety.

"We have discussed it internally and believe it's in the best interests of horses and horse safety to move the race four weeks after the Kentucky Derby," Butler told the Thoroughbred Daily News. "This would give horses more time to recover between races to be able to run in the Preakness. Horse safety is more important than tradition. [The New York Racing Association] is aware and considering how this would impact the Belmont. Stay tuned."

The NYRA, which runs most New York racing, was pretty clear how it would affect the Belmont Stakes. It won't.

"NYRA has concerns about fundamental changes to the structure of the Triple Crown," said Patrick McKenna, vice president for communication for NYRA. "We have no plans to move the date of the Belmont Stakes."

It's unclear if this is setting up a showdown, seismic change or just posturing on the part of Stronach, which owns Santa Anita, Pimlico, Laurel and Gulfstream racetracks.

Stronach is a private company that is known to operate in secrecy and keep its intentions known to few people.

Before announcing the closure of Golden Gate last month, the company did not share plans with major stakeholders, including the California Thoroughbred Trainers and the Thoroughbred Owners of California. The California Horse Racing Board found out about it by accident two days early when it received a question from another state agency.