06/12/2017 4:42PM

All-sources betting on Belmont Stakes declines 9.2 percent

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Barbara D. Livingston
An announced crowd of 57,729 watches as Mor Spirit wins the Metropolitan Handicap on the stakes-packed undercard of the Belmont Stakes.

All-sources betting on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes was down 9.2 percent from last year, according to charts compiled by Equibase, with handle on the race suffering from a lackluster field that did not include the Kentucky Derby winner, the Preakness winner, the expected favorite, or any standout.

Total handle on the 11-horse race, including all horizontal wagers ending in the Belmont, was $47.5 million, down from $52.2 million on a 13-horse field last year, according to the charts. The Belmont was won by Tapwrit, the 5.30-1 second choice, with the 2.75-1 favorite, Irish War Cry, finishing second. No horse in the Belmont went off at greater than 24-1 odds.

Total handle on the 13-race card at Belmont on Saturday fared a bit better than the Belmont Stakes, with strong wagering on the two races preceding the Belmont Stakes and the two races after it. Total handle for the card was $93.8 million, down 5.6 percent from $99.4 million on a 13-race card last year, according to the charts.

A total of 121 runners competed on Saturday’s card, down 3.2 percent from 125 runners last year.

Attendance on a sunny day was 57,729, according to the New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont. Last year, attendance was reported as 60,114.

The Belmont decline capped a mixed bag for the Triple Crown this year, which started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Handle on the Kentucky Derby was a record $137.8 million, and viewership of the race on NBC was the highest in two decades at 16.5 million. However, handle declined slightly on the Preakness two weeks later, and viewership plunged 20 percent from last year, according to figures from NBC. (Viewership measures the number of viewers on television and digital platforms.)

This was the second straight year that a Triple Crown was not on the line in the Belmont, following two years of extraordinary handle numbers for the race when California Chrome was going for the Triple Crown in 2014 and American Pharoah took the title in 2015, generating record wagering of $127.9 million on the Belmont. In 2013, when no Triple Crown was on the line, the wagering total was similar to wagering on the race last year at $52.6 million.

The Belmont’s field this year lacked any star power, with the Derby winner, Always Dreaming, skipping the race after a disappointing run in the Preakness. The Preakness winner, Cloud Computing, also opted out of the Belmont. In addition, Classic Empire, who was expected to be the favorite in the Belmont, was pulled from consideration early in the week with a sore foot, while Epicharis, a Japan-based horse, was scratched on Saturday morning due to the lingering effects of lameness.

For those reasons, this year’s Belmont was not expected to set any records, handle-wise. Betting in every pool was down, according to charts, with the exception of the pick-four pool, which drew $3.8 million in bets, up 8.1 percent, and a double linking Friday’s Belmont Gold Cup with the Belmont, with handle on that bet up 10.4 percent. Win, place, and show betting was down 6.7 percent; handle in the exacta pool was down 13.6 percent; the trifecta, 12.8 percent; and the superfecta, 11.3 percent.

NYRA had also hoped to attract millions of dollars in separate-pool betting on the race because of the presence of Epicharis, a Kentucky-bred who was eligible for a $1 million bonus available to any Japan-based horse who won the Belmont. Because Epicharis was entered in the race, Japanese racing authorities allowed the simulcast to be imported into Japan for the first time, but the scratch of the horse likely significantly dampened the enthusiasm for the race in the country.

Betting on the Belmont in Japan opened at approximately 6:30 a.m. Eastern, or 7:30 p.m. in Japan. Because the pools opened four hours before Epicharis scratched, the pools remained open for the race. According to NYRA, total wagering in the Japanese pool was $4,698,525, but that total included wagers that would have been refunded due to the scratch of Epicharis, according to a NYRA official. It was not known on Monday how much of the pool was refunded.