06/08/2012 1:25PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Without Triple Crown on the line, NYRA business will take huge hit


Forget about the proverbial other shoe. For the beleaguered sport of horse racing, under attack from a variety of quarters, and particularly for the embattled New York Racing Association, the scratch on Friday of I’ll Have Another from the Belmont was the twelfth or thirteenth shoe to drop.

In an instant, expectations for a 100,000-plus crowd at Belmont on Saturday evaporated. So did the chance for a television audience that would exceed that of nearly any other sporting event of the year. So did the many millions of dollars that NYRA would likely reap from a Triple Crown attempt.

Moreso, so did the hopes that I’ll Have Another could redirect, at least temporarily, the focus of racing’s numerous critics, who have seized on the sport’s problems this year with unrelenting zeal. Despite the public-perception problems facing the colt’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, very few faulted the horse, who won the Derby and the Preakness in dramatic fashion under masterful rides from an eminently likeable Mexican immigrant, Mario Gutierrez. A win in the Belmont would have been one of the few feel-good stories for racing this year.

Citing the “unprecedented” nature of the scratch – only two horses who have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes have not run in the Belmont, both in the 1930s – NYRA officials were reluctant to predict how much attendance and handle figures would be impacted. But precedence certainly provides an indication of just how much a Triple Crown matters to both casual racegoers and handicappers.

The record attendance for the Belmont, 120,139, was set in 2004, when Smarty Jones was going for the Triple Crown. In comparison, last year’s attendance, when the Triple Crown was not on the line, was 55,779. In three of the last four years in which a Triple Crown was possible, attendance topped 100,000.

Handle on the Belmont and the track’s undercard also increases significantly when a Triple Crown is on the line, usually in the range of 25 percent to 75 percent. On the national scene, television ratings for a Belmont Triple Crown are normally anywhere from double to quadruple the ratings for a non-Triple Crown year.

“The Belmont Stakes is still an iconic event on the sports schedule, and the NBC Sports Group broadcasts will treat it as such,” said Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for the network that broadcasts the three races of the Triple Crown. “We’re working now to adjust the game plan accordingly.”

Aside from the numbers, there is the overwhelming sense of deflation. The visceral disappointment felt by the colt’s connections notwithstanding, NYRA officials have been working round-the-clock to prepare for a Triple Crown try, just weeks after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for a state takeover of the association’s board. Cuomo engineered the plan following a winter and spring in which NYRA was taken to task for a spate of horse deaths during its Aqueduct winter meet and the release of a report prepared by state regulators suggesting that NYRA officials were aware that the association was incorrectly applying takeout rates for many superexotic wagers for a 15-month period in 2010 and 2011.

“We’re still going to do our job to promote a great day of racing at Belmont,” said NYRA’s spokesperson, Dan Silver.

Whitec Amry More than 1 year ago
How was New York horseracing organized before NYRA, and how is NYRA such an improvement?
MJP More than 1 year ago
Want to know how they lost money yesterday? 1) By mid-afternoon, every ATM in the place (maybe ten in the entire huge facility) had had dozens, even hundreds of people in line waiting to get cash. Long before the race, most of the ATMs ran out of cash. People waited 40 minutes only to have the machines run out before they got up there. 2) The various food, beer, concession stands were not taking credit or debit cards. Ergo, the huge lines for cash. It is guaranteed that NYRA lost thousands upon thousands that people would've spent on a bet or a beer if they could take out their money to pay for it. 3) Various gormless NYRA officials could be observed here and there gaping at proceedings from their lofty perches but I guess none of these incompetents thought to rent extra ATMs or make their vendors take credit cards in 2012. 4) There were a bunch of out-of-state people who were utterly baffled by NYRA's idiotic process of having to go to a clerk or a special "voucher machine" to put in cash to get a voucher to go to another machine to make a bet with. Most out of state OTBs fixed this issue some time in 1987. Usual crack job by DRF reporting what their supposed customers (you know, the people who actually bet money at the racetracks) actually experience.
Lucy Ohannessian More than 1 year ago
I think a bit of naysaying on your part? 85,000 showed, which would seem to imply the casual racing fan is less into wound licking and feeling sorry for themselves than the supposed hardcore supporters of the sport are?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bueno suertes la todo pachukos esta dia, por swega caballos ye bel, pedo no mucho dinero por pools.........otro carreras no viah tambien...................odele puess
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That being said, d o neill after scr of IHA ", we'll try it again next year " oh yeah don't know if he wants to return to NY any time soon, TC or not !
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
Figure it out. He got caught they kept it hush hush.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
after reading most of the comments., can't accept NYRA & CHRB did the wrong things. ca was ok w/ susp & fine of D O neill at this time........NYRA Ok, lets just see, all go to detention barn wed..........reddam team ; we're otta here....won't rin cases closed NY not lucky for dream team: IHA hurt last year in hopeful
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
what about betfair w/ shot glass giveaway, serves 'em right should of been cookies instead of my $10K super, have to settle for $2500. paynter, u rgs/dullhn 2-3 all sup
Jay More than 1 year ago
This is not an indictment of NYRA, but of the horse racing "business" in general. The fix is a central governing body, like in other sports, with one set on national rules that apply to all. Druggie O'Neill can run back to California and leave NY holding the bag with no regret as he laughs all the way to the breeding shed. No doubt they should do everything to protect the animal (whose name will be forgotten faster than Eight Belles), but this muti-million dollar disaster for TV, tracks everywhere, Belmont, NYRA and racing credibility in general is the direct result of an inexperienced, corner-cutting, drug infused, party-hardy trainer who was in over his head. Never have and never will see anything like this - - - a day before scratch at 4/5 going for the Triple Crown - - -with any of the classic trainers (Baffert, Pletcher, etc.). I remain true to the view that the forced detention forced IHA to run without the usual cadre of drugs (legal or otherwise) which made it a bad business move to run him so an ache and pain became a career ending injury. Let the breeding begin! It was supposed to be a beautiful day here in NY today but now it is overcast with rain threatened in the late afternoon. This Belmont may just be snake bit. (And no, I agree Drug O'Neill had nothing to do with the weather).
Doneshaw Farm More than 1 year ago
Jay, Exactly how many thoroughbreds have you foaled? How many sleepless nights in the middle of winter have you waited, not knowing if you have a live foal, God forbid, a stillborn, or a dead mare after all this? (BTW you don't mind if I use the word 'God' do you?) Once born, how many vet bills, training bills, van bills, etc, etc ,etc, have you made? Tell you what, come to Ky, where, BTW EVERY horse in your prestigeous Belmont Stakes was bred, and you will see TRUE horsemanship. I don't know your experience with this industry, i'm guessing not extensive, based on the post, but come to this state, see the million dollar barns, the contless workers who arrive at the track, or farm before sunlight to work on and take care of, these beautiful creatures, that you, would rather run in your state, possibly break down, so you can make some money for yourself. Are you familiar at all with the countless regulations regarding medications in this industry? It's more regulated than the NFL? Ironically, NFL linemen have a life expectancy in the mid 50s, 20 years less then their non athletic counterparts. What exactly should this trainer do? This trainer who likely knows this horse better than you know your partner? Tell us, don't just sit there on the sidelines or in the anonymous cyber world, and throw out critisism. Tell us oh great one, what would you do? I commend everyone who made that decision, they put the horse ahead of petty world of corporate greed, broadcasting and high society. So tell us, what would you do? Here's a perfect opportunity to teach us what you do, or don't, REALLY know? Clock's ticking.........
ROL_VAZQUEZ More than 1 year ago
Isn't that trainer well known as a dirtbag that gives "milkshakes" to his horses. I believe I heard he's banned in IL. U can't act like there isn't cheating in horse or harness racing just because there are regulations. Each state has different regulations so if someone gets caught cheating in one state they can still race in another. They need a governing body to preside over all horse racing like the NFL has.
ron breton More than 1 year ago
YOU folks have your own dirty trainer...DUTROW...clean up your own back yard....your the type of ppl that if you found a $1oo.oo bill on the street you would be pissed off that it wasn't in 5...20's...belmont doesn't deserve to be part of the triple crown
John Nicoletti More than 1 year ago
Wow, Doneshaw Farm. Excellent comment, and oh so accurate. As a former owner, I can validate everything you said. The expense is enormous. The horse's health rules, similar to your sick child, all safety measure are in place, to get the thoroughbred back to good health. You adopt a maternal attitude toward these beautiful creatures, and feel their pain, and joy. A Thoroughbreds heart is huge, not only physically, but emotionally. Their loyalty is immediate, and lasting. Truly special creatures.
Ben Hendricks More than 1 year ago
Maybe the NYRA needs a cleanup, but letting the incompetent state government attempt such a task would accomplish nothing more than adding more incompetent political appointees and the associated, bloated payroll to the crushing load already being carried by the taxpayers of New York.
Ben Hendricks More than 1 year ago
Maybe the NYRA needs a thorough cleaning, but to let the idiots at the State Government run horse racing would only invite bigger problems and a whole lot of taxpayer money wasted on bloated salaries for inept government employees.