06/07/2009 11:00PM

Belmont business healthy for non-Crown year


Given the circumstances of not having a Triple Crown at stake nor having Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra in the field, both track and television officials were pleased with the numbers generated from Saturday's 141st Belmont Stakes.

Though down significantly from last year when the undefeated Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown, the figures posted on Saturday compared favorably with 2007 when there was no Triple Crown at stake. Saturday's attendance of 52,861 was down 44 percent from last year's 94,476, but up 12.7 percent from the 2007 crowd of 46,870 that saw the filly Rags to Riches beat Preakness winner Curlin.

The ontrack handle of $9,021,196 was down 31.8 percent from last year's $13,323,071, but was up 2 percent from the 2007 figure of $8,843,720. The 2008 figure was the second-highest ontrack handle in the history of the Belmont Stakes.

Belmont Park's total all-sources handle of $89,705,994, which includes money bet from simulcast outlets, was down 10.2 percent from last year's $99,943,516, but represented an 18.6 increase from the 2007 figure of $75,657,986. The 2009 figure also represented the biggest on Belmont Stakes Day in a non-Triple Crown year.

There were 120 betting interests on Saturday's 13-race card, compared with 116 in 2008 and 106 in 2007.

Saturday's late pick-four pool of $2,243,069 was a Belmont Park record, eclipsing the old mark of $1,983,864 set on Belmont Stakes Day 2006. The pick-six pool was $1,659,251. The New York Racing Association guaranteed both pools at $1 million.

Saturday "was a brilliant day of racing and I thank all of our customers and racing participants," said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward.

ABC officials reported on Monday that the overnight rating for the Belmont from the 5:30-7 p.m. time frame was a 5.0, down from 9.4 a year ago, but up from 3.8 when compared to 2007. National ratings won't be out until Thursday.

"Given the circumstances, this is a good indication for both the Belmont and for horse racing," said Mark Mandel, a spokesman for ABC/ESPN. "Even in a year where the Derby and Preakness winners weren't racing against each other, it still did a healthy rating; a lot of interest."