Updated on 06/10/2013 1:56PM

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

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.

John Flynn More than 1 year ago
Belmont is Beautiful. But, it was a Bad Card & BAD RACE!!! Last Year The way they handled "I'll Have Another" - was UNFORGETABLE & UNFORGIVABLE!!! Then they waited until Fri - to say he was not going to run.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Where was the Gov eating meatballs.
Leonard L More than 1 year ago
I completely agree with W.G. Although we attended the race, the ban on backpacks, thermoses, purses larger than 12", coolers, and various other items, including even umbrellas was more than mildly disheartening. We were just lucky it didn't rain. I can understand the excessive security concerns following the Boston incident. However, If I hadn't bought our tickets before we knew of this ban on all the items, I'm not sure we would have attended. It's a shame - Belmont is such a beautiful place with a great infield park and much history. But, if these bans continue for next year and afterwards, I'm not sure we will be going.
Nathan More than 1 year ago
agreed and not the first time it has happened.
john More than 1 year ago
A foretaste of what is to come with the new NYRA management. Do you realize that the official NYRA website at 2PM on Belmont Day (3 1/2 hours after first post) had listed NO scratches and two overweights as the ONLY changes on the whole Belmont card. That to me is inexcusable and a perfect example of the incompetence of NYRA and it's new and "improved" board. Phew, absolutely inexcuable.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
From what I understand, NYRA was having issues all day with online stuff. That could very well have been related to the weather on Friday, especially if their webhost had to deal with flooding (lest we not forget what happened to DRF's main site last fall in the days after Sandy leading up to the BC).
john More than 1 year ago
Do you mean to tell me they were unable to put a notice on their site to that effect. Also, to compare the storm on Friday to Hurricane Sandy is a real stretch. I lay it at the feet of the continued poor management at NYRA. I heard of no major on line problems of any kind in the NYC area on either Friday or Saturday.
Jack Twee More than 1 year ago
People are wising up to how high the takeout is in New York.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
It appears the backpack ban did far more harm than good. While well intended (and obviously needed this year in wake of what happened in Boston given we still have a very jittery society after what happened there along with other recent acts of rage), as I understand it based on what I have read and based on what I've heard from others who reported, the ban seemed to cost NYRA anywhere from 12-15,000 or so who otherwise would have been at Belmont (the weather, while horrible Friday cleared by early Saturday morning and was likely a VERY minor factor if it all). Belmont Park is NOT Churchill Downs or Pimlico much like New York is NOT Louisville or Baltimore. While Churchill needs to have the bans they do because the Kentucky Derby is the holy grail of the sport (at least to the casual sports fan) and the Preakness is extremely important to the Maryland economy, the Belmont Stakes, while important does NOT carry ANY of the same weight the other two legs do (even when the Triple Crown is on the line). New York, meanwhile is a city many make day trips to, in the northeast usually using AMTRAK or the many cheap bus routes that either to go to Port Authority or other parts of Manhattan or if in a position to do so use New Jersey Transit, combined from points southwest of Trenton with SEPTA (MUCH cheaper than AMTRAK and faster than many of the buses). Many of those day-trippers use backpacks because such keep hands and arms free and make it much easier to do such trips. NYRA needs to seriously re-evaluate the backpack ban on Belmont Stakes day. There were quite a few who posted on various boards that they did not go to Belmont SOLELY because of the ban, and the ban made it extremely difficult for day-trippers (who like it or not are a big part of tourism in New York) to be able to come in and be at Belmont Park. NYRA lost as much as 25% of what otherwise likely would have been a crowd in the 60-65,000 range SOLELY because of the ban, and that should not be lost on executives at NYRA as they plan security for future editions of The Belmont Stakes and other events like the Travers at Saratoga later this summer. A fair compromise would be for NYRA to create separate security checkpoints on both the grandstand and clubhouse entrances (and at a distance from the actual physical structure) that would SOLELY be for backpacks and other large bags (and briefcases and so forth), so especially those who are day-trippers who use backpacks for such are better able to be at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes day. A backpack ban will NEVER stop a terrorist aside from the very most amateur of such from doing harm (and those can usually be spotted in other ways by people well-trained to spot such), especially if security does their job like they are supposed to. If terrorists were determined to cause something like what happened in Boston at any of the Triple Crown races or any other sporting event, they would find ways to easily work around such a ban as we have seen time and again with the shoe bomber, underwear bomber, etc. If such a ban had been in place in Boston, the bombers there would likely have found a way around it if they were that determined, which many people fail to realize. A backpack ban, while necessary for this year because of people being jittery, was more for show than anything else. It, however, will again never stop other than the very most amateur of terrorists, and NYRA seriously needs to re-evaluate such given NYRA apparently lost at least 25% of a crowd that otherwise would have been in the 60-65,000 range SOLELY because of the ban.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
you just make numbers up...
W.G. More than 1 year ago
That is based on everything I heard and read. You obviously don't realize how many people travel into NYC on day trips using backpacks for such because it is easiest. I know too many people who use backpacks religiously, and especially for such trips. For people like that, the backpack ban almost certainly kept them away and there are those who clearly said so.
Tiger Jane More than 1 year ago
Considering the reason for the ban, I must say it is "better to be safe than sorry," Was there and I felt very safe with all the security
W.G. More than 1 year ago
For this year, the ban was needed because it came so soon after Boston, however, it appears the ban really did far more harm than good and cost NYRA at least 25% of what would have been a crowd of 60-65,000 otherwise based on everything I have seen, read and heard. People going into NYC on day trips are much different people and for most, a backpack is an essential part of it. I know too many people who use backpacks religiously and especially if doing a trip of a considerable distance. It's MUCH different from Churchill Downs and Pimlico. Oh, and I was at the 2001 BC (first BC after 9/11) where they DID allow backpacks and also at the first three Belmont Stakes after 9/11 (again, where they DID allow backpacks) and security did their job properly. A terrorist is NEVER going to be stopped by a backpack ban as we have seen time and again. If something happened, it would be because of other breakdows (as we have since learned with Boston) and NOT because NYRA allowed backpacks.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
when you turn the track into a paved highway that favors only speed people ignore the closers and you get no action on them...if you want handle keep the track fair...ho and install real surveillance on the cheats so that people bet other trainers not just the miracle trainers.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
That was the weather that made the track what it was, and it definitely played into the outcome of The Belmont. Freedom Child was cooked because everyone saw what happened all day leading up to The Belmont Stakes. Most people know Belmont is often at its fastest when it is wet fast like it was Saturday, and the jockeys raced like they knew it would be very difficult to close.
Robert Barnes More than 1 year ago
Did you watch the Woody Stephens? Enough said
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
another whiner
mikey More than 1 year ago
Keep making the prices higher and soon 10,000 will show up.Nyra treats the fans like dirt.No draw show like the Derby and Preakness.The only times big crowds will show up is if some horse can win the TC.The infield is off limits so the party goers stay away.Nyra only wants the big timers and treat the every day fan like dirt.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
They need to open up that infield and throw a party...What they also need to do is get a reel promoter...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
so you can get a bunch of drunken yahoos to destroy the infield?....enough whining already...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
why go and fight the crowds when I can sit in the comfort of my home and play?...I would rather go on a day when there are 3000 fans and I can relax
anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did rain play a role? It was coming down in buckets all night.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Actually, the rain was gone long before the Belmont day starting and had very little, if any effect. The MUCH bigger effect was apparently the backpack pan as noted in other posts.