Updated on 06/10/2013 1:56PM

Belmont Stakes: Handle on race declines 6 percent, overall card down 8 percent

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Barbara D. Livingston
The grandstand looks packed at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day, but attendance was 47,562, far below the 85,811 reported last year.

Handle on the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York on Saturday was $52.6 million, down 6.2 percent compared with handle of $56.1 million on the race last year, according to the charts for the two races.

In addition, attendance at the track and the overnight rating for a Belmont Stakes television broadcast on Saturday were down significantly compared with last year, and there were significant declines in ontrack handle and total handle on this year’s 13-race card.

Comparisons between the 2013 Belmont and the 2012 running are complicated by the fact that I’ll Have Another, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, scratched on the Friday before the Belmont last year, well after Belmont’s operator, the New York Racing Association, sold tens of thousands of tickets in anticipation of a Triple Crown attempt. As a result, the 2012 Belmont posted business figures well above those of a Belmont that did not have a Triple Crown possibility, even though the actual race did not include the Derby and Preakness winner.

Compared with 2011, the 2013 Belmont compared favorably on most measures, with handle on the race up 6 percent. Ontrack handle in 2013 also was up 6 percent compared to the 2011 card, while total handle was up 9 percent. Attendance, however, was down 14.7 percent compared with 2011, when attendance was reported as 55,779, compared to 47,562 reported last Saturday.
Attendance last year was 85,811, according to Belmont. The 2013 crowd was nearly half that figure, demonstrating the marketing power of a run-up to a Triple Crown attempt.

Overall, handle on the 13-race card this year was $88.7 million, down 8.1 percent compared with total handle of $96.5 million last year, according to Belmont. This year’s card had 128 runners, compared with 126 in the 13 races last year. Ontrack, handle was $10.7 million, down 22.3 percent from last year, when the crowd was nearly 40,000 people larger.

The overnight rating for the race portion of a two-hour broadcast on NBC was a 4.6, according to the network, down 14.8 percent compared with the overnight rating last year of 5.4. In 2011, the overnight rating for the race portion of the broadcast was a 4.8. National ratings will be available Tuesday.

With a $2 minimum, handle on the pick six ending with the Belmont Stakes was $1,203,178, exceeding the $1 million guarantee. A pick four ending in the Belmont had handle of $2,918,807, a record for any pick four held at Belmont, the track said.