A Big Day at the Races & at the Reining

Five ways the 2020 Belmont Stakes and the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel are similar.

Cade McCutcheon is the youngest competitor in the Level 4 open finals at the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. Photo by Kaycie Timm

By Jennifer Paulson

Horse racing and reining have more in common than you might think—and it’s not just because Bob Baffert likes to employ ex-reiners on the track as pony horses.

Today, June 20, 2020, the equine world hosts two major events: the 2020 Belmont Stakes and the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. These two events share a number of commonalities. Here are just a few.

First major events in their sports. With COVID-19 causing the postponement of major events in both sports—from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to the Cactus Classic and the National Reining Breeders Classic—the Belmont Stakes and NRHA Derby presented by Markel represent exciting returns to competition that breeders, owners, trainers, sponsors, spectators and riders/jockeys have been waiting for.

No outside audience. For the first time, both events will play out in person only for show officials, exhibitors, and owners. There won’t be a roaring crowd as horses come around the final turn, and the whistles and hollers at the end of a massive sliding stop will be less boisterous. But make no mistake—the morale at the NRHA Derby presented by Markel is so high, those who are there will keep the Jim Norick Arena on fire.

Veterans and newcomers. The jockeys at the Belmont Stakes and the riders at the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel represent old and young, veterans and newcomers. Reylu Gutierrez, 23, riding Jungle Runner, is the youngest jockey competing in the Belmont, and it’s his first-ever run in the New York race. John Velazquez, riding Tap It To Win, is the oldest jockey in the Belmont field at age 48. On the reining side, Cade McCutcheon is the youngest NRHA Professional you’ll see in the Level (L) 4 finals, showing two horses. It’s his second time to compete as a pro in this event, and one of his mounts is his 2019 NRHA Futurity Open Champion, Super Marioo. The “most experienced” recognition for the L4 finals goes to Ann Anderman riding Maximum Mag.

Growing at-home audience. With fans safer at home, the online/television presence for these events is expected to be well above average. Both have extensive online coverage and opportunities for audience engagement. Be sure to visit the Reiner site for installments from our two blogs: Behind the Slide and The Rundown; follow NRHA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; and keep up with the live feed and pre-finals coverage.

Major sale graduates. The sale markets for reining and horseracing play major roles in each sport. This year’s Belmont Stakes has four graduates from the Keeneland Sales (Dr Post, Fore Left, Max Player, and Sole Volante). The open finals of the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel features eight NRHA Futurity/Markel Sale graduates (Dunnit In A Dream, Guaranteed A Magnum, Jerrys Okie Chic, Lil Jeweled Spook, Mighty Mr Wise Guy, Special Made Whiskey, Spooks Gotta Spark, This Gunners Dreamin). The non pro finals yesterday saw seven (Gunnashowyahowitsdone, Sassy Son Ofa Gun, Gunnernic AC, Smart Voodoo Doctor, Gunners Bar Fly, and Holly Trashya).

We hope you have multiple screens teed-up to catch all the exciting action happening today in the horse world! Find coverage of the Belmont Stakes on NBC, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., ET. The livestream of section one of the open finals at the 2020 NRHA Futurity presented by Markel begins at 11 a.m., ET; the second section featuring the Level 4 horses begins at 6 p.m., ET.