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Belmont Stakes Day handle and television ratings soar
By Matt Hegarty
Business figures for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes posted across-the-board gains as the race reaped the rewards of nearly three weeks of speculation over whether I’ll Have Another could win the Triple Crown.
Though I’ll Have Another scratched from the race on Friday with a minor injury, the residual impacts of his aborted attempt led to substantial gains in attendance at Belmont on Saturday, accounting for the largest non-Triple Crown crowd in the race’s history. Ontrack handle, all-sources handle on the 13-race Belmont card, and television ratings also jumped significantly compared with last year.
"There was a tremendous amount of buzz leading into the race, and that amount of buzz, that amount of attention, probably accounted for a nice bump," said Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for NBC, which broadcast the Belmont and the other two races of the Triple Crown.
Business figures for all three Triple Crown races were up this year, despite high-profile attacks on racing this winter and spring from many of the sport’s critics and lingering concern over the public’s perception of a sport that has suffered massive losses in business over the past four years.
On Saturday, those concerns seemed to be of little import. The New York Racing Association, Belmont’s operator, reported attendance of 85,811, a 53.8 percent gain over the crowd last year and the largest crowd to attend the race when a Triple Crown was not on the line. The weather on Saturday was mild, with skies that periodically threatened rain.
In the weeks leading up to the Belmont, NYRA had been planning for a crowd in excess of 100,000, which has been typical in the modern era for when a Triple Crown is on the line. After I’ll Have Another’s scratch on Friday, those hopes were dashed, and the size of the crowd on Saturday was a pleasant surprise for a sport that has seemed to be on the ropes.
The all-time attendance record for the Belmont was set in 2004, when 120,139 people showed up to see if Smarty Jones could win the Triple Crown. The previous attendance record for a non-Triple Crown Belmont was set in 2001, when 73,857 was reported. Attendance last year was 55,779.
Including wagering from Aqueduct, the Queens racetrack that is also operated by NYRA, ontrack handle was $13.8 million, the second-highest ontrack handle for the Belmont Stakes behind only the 2004 figure of $14.7 million. The ontrack figure was up 36.4 percent compared with the same figure last year, which also included betting numbers from Aqueduct.
All-sources handle on the 13-race card was $96.6 million, according to NYRA, an 18.8 percent gain over the 13-race Belmont Stakes card last year. This year, 126 horses ran in the 13 races, compared with 125 horses last year.
According to the chart of the race, handle on the Belmont Stakes itself was $56.1 million, a gain of 13.1 percent over the amount bet last year, when handle was $49.6 million.
The overnight rating for the last 45 minutes of the Belmont Stakes broadcast on NBC was a 5.4, up 13 percent over the rating last year, according to the network. Share was a 13, up 18.2 percent compared with the share for last year, the network said.
According to NBC, the 5.4 overnight rating was the highest for a non-Triple Crown Belmont broadcast since 2005. Ratings are generally far higher for the Belmont when a Triple Crown is on the line. In 2008, when Big Brown was attempting to win the Triple Crown, the rating was a 9.5, with a 21 share.
one interesting thing that was not mentioned anywhere was that arlingtons high 5 was hit for a 1,1 million payout after carrying over for many days,i guess every one is embarrased by the result the winner was hopeless the 2nd horse was improbable,but you have to tip of your hat to the arlington jockeys they have a sense of humor the winners name BETTER MAKE MONEY at 40/1.congrats on the coup.
Moral to the story: Get another Philly horse to go for the Triple Crown
Originally posted this in an earlier article on the television ratings: You have to wonder if with the 5.4 rating for The Belmont Stakes (an excellent number given the circumstances), NBC now looks to push back the Belmont Stakes telecast to 5:30-7:45 PM ET (and moving Belmont Stakes post time back to 7:05 PM ET) while at the same time asks the NHL to set up the playoffs so the Stanley Cup Finals are at no earlier than Game 4 on the day of The Belmont Stakes so NBC can use The Belmont Stakes telecast as a direct lead-in to most likely Game 4 of the Finals. That to me would make sense because NBC can then have a 20-minute pre-game show following The Belmont with face-off at 8:05 PM ET and a good chance even with an overtime of the game finishing before 11:00 PM ET that way, and at the same time keep viewers watching The Belmont with NBC for a Stanley Cup Finals game they might not otherwise watch..
i am an a..hole for posting previous comment. to tell the truth, i thought the comment would come accross as anonymos, and i was just trying to stir the pot in retaliation for some advertising of blown up numbers for the wrong reasons. i have no way of proving my assumption. not enough good racing on monday and i guess that i was bored. sorry if i offended anyone.
there would not have been 50000 there if IHA was not on the program. great business move by nyra not to scratch untill 1:00 friday. half of the crowd didnt know the triple crown was not being contested until the day was half over and after a few cocktails. did you see IHA's work pattern before the santa anita derby and kentucky derby?? he was absolutely drilled. zero works btween ky derby and preakness understandable, but zero works before the belmont?? zero works over big sandy, a 1 1/2 mile race, a test of champions and triple crown to boot!! a decision made by a trainer who loves to drill them!! not concievable. he was hurt some time ago, but not entering would have cost nyra a ton. hope they took care of the reddam and oneil camp!! the plan worked out great....but dont fluff up the numbers by making belmont day sound like a resurgence in horse racing. it was false marketing at its best!!
memo to NBC dump Gary Stevens please the guy is the worst
This just confirms something that I've been saying all along: news of any sort, good or bad (apparently O'Neil in this case) is better than none. And a more Damon Runyonesque/Dick Francis approach to marketing horse racing in North America would work so much better (for the general public) than free Tote Bags and b.s.
I guess it's good that the casual fan had no idea what a mess NYRA and NYSRWB made of this day. I'd say the numbers are pretty encouraging. Now if we can only get racing on TV more often. I think I saw somewhere that Pro Bowling gets twice as much TV time as Horse Racing each year. I really don't know who watches bowling, but it's definitely not more exciting.
Kind of glad Belmont didn't take a dive. At first I was upset with NYRA but if the tv ratings and on track attendance were pluses for racing then that's good!
The Derby race alone has way more money bet on than the whole 13-race Belmont day card. Yet somehow Churchill acts broke.. the math just doesn't add up.
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