Attendance, Handle Down for 2013 Belmont Stakes

by | 06.09.2013 | 9:22am

Belmont Park officials released handle and attendance numbers for Saturday's Belmont Stakes which indicated that while attendance and on/off-track handle were down overall from last year, handle numbers showed an increase from 2011.

On-track handle totals of $10,700,326 were down 22.3 percent from last year, but up six percent from two years ago. Off-track handle also fared better than in 2011, with a total of $77,951,697–a 9.5 percent increase from 2011, and 5.8 percent decrease from 2012.

Attendance total of 47,562 was down from both of the last two editions of the race.

2013 Belmont Stakes Day handle and attendance compared to 2012 and 2011:

  2013 2012 2011
On-Track $10,700,326 $13,777,920 $10,098,572 -22.3% +6.0%
Off-Track $77,951,697 $82,708,065 $71,200,946 -5.8% +9.5%
Total $88,652,023 $96,485,985 $81,299,517   -8.1% +9.0%
Attendance 47,562 85,811 55,779   -44.6% -14.7%


Last year, I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was set for a Triple Crown attempt, but was retired the day before the race after developing tendinitis.

In 2011, Ruler On Ice defeated Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness victor Shackleford.

Saturday's $1 million Guaranteed All-Graded-Stakes Pick 4 handle of $2,918,807 broke the previous record of $2,856,185 set last year. The $1 million Guaranteed Pick 6 generated handle of $1,203,177.

  • Hoops and Horses

    the ban on backpacks (and other large bags) was 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 have cost the New York Racing Association anywhere from 12-15,000 or so who otherwise would have been at Belmont.

    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 at Pimlico 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.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      And just what does one need to have in the backpack when making a day trip to Belmont Park???

      • Hoops and Horses

        Lets see:

        Quite a lot actually, especially if you get stuck. I’ll just say there’s are good reasons too many people I know use backpacks religiously, and especially on trips. New York is very unique to this in ways you can’t measure so easily.

        Including on NYRA’s Facebook page, I saw too many people saying they would not come because of the ban on backpacks. Given what I know about how people do very long day trips to and from NYC from considerable distances in ways you don’t see to too many other places, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

      • Kris

        Would you like to know what’s in my backpack/camera bag? A camera. My Nikon camera weighs 1.5 pounds and my 70-200mm lens weighs 3.3 pounds. I need a bag to put them in and will not attend any track that doesn’t allow me to bring them. Taking photos at the track is a very enjoyable experience for me, but I’m more than happy to allow security to scrutinize my bag and camera.

        • Hoops and Horses

          And it’s not just those with cameras. New York is a completely different culture from elsewhere on many things, and that to me was reflected in why the attendance was down 15% from two years ago (better comparison as opposed to last year). The backpack ban appeared to cause too many people to stay home, and a balance needs to be made between the needs of security and the fact that many people will not give up their backpacks because of much of a difference it really makes for traveling. As I would do it, have a separate checkpoint specifically for large bags, backpacks, etc. (maybe even have those with them go through a double security checkpoint) while everyone else keeps security as is. NYRA did an excellent job from 2002-’12 the way they had it (I was at the first four Belmonts after 9/11 and NYRA always did an excellent job of security) and needs to return to that as a backpack ban will NOT stop a terrorist other than the very most amateur.

  • Michael J. Arndt

    4 years in a row running 2:30+ times. They run the last four furlongs slower than their very slowest workouts when they begin training. 54!! That’s pathetic. I challenge any serious racing fan to name me another race we celebrate as being something special where they jog home like that! To celebrate the Belmont in the modern era is to celebrate mediocrity, imo. Our horses are not bred to run this distance, and all we do is knock out our young stars and make them look awful continuing to make such a big deal about this race. The Belmont is a race for 1913’s American Thoroughbred, not 2013’s American Thoroughbred. Even the winners would be distanced by mid-pack horses from 20+ years ago.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      The last quarter time was about what good standardbreds run at the Red Mile Grand Circuit meet.

  • Richard C

    When once asked on the need for speed at the Indy 500, A.J. Foyt said the stands would be filled for a competitive race with taxi cabs as the hot rods. Breeding for distance and endurance is no longer the deck of cards being dealt in North America – and it’s not coming back anytime soon – so, it comes down to one major marketing plan for (casual) sports fans…..and they may not need a Triple Crown race, but certainly want a solid expectation that the event will be competitive, from start to finish.

    • michael j arndt

      I just think as a sport we need to take a look in the mirror. Is taking our best 3 year olds and making them look like 20,000 claimers at Philly Park really wise

  • Figless

    Its not just backpacks, the ban of purses and coolers and food kept at least 50% of our usual 40 person group from coming, specifically ALL the women and children. We purchase 40-50 seats per year, not happening next year, and THOSE advance ticket sales were COUNTED in the alleged attendance.

  • Figless

    With all due respect to those commenting on here less than 10% of the attendees pay attention to final time much less splits. Perceived quality of horses today compared to 40 years ago has absolutely zero effect on attendance or handle. This is entertainment, pure and simple, and the overbearing security measures effect attendance way more than the quality of the race.
    I understand the need for security but a balance must be attained. If you go overboard to the extent of paranoia the terrorists have won. We ran the Breeders Cup at Belmont immediately following 9-1-1 without these draconian measures. If we did it then we can do it now.

    • Hoops and Horses

      Absolutely a balance must be maintained, as noted in my other post.

  • Mike

    I’ve been to every Belmont since 2002, younger guy (25) and my father and i always purchase seats in the grandstand, myself and my friend brought a hero from a deli and drinks in bags, we were then given bags to put our stuff in that were clear.. the ban on coolers backpacks ect alienates Belmonts main patrons though (families, groups of friends) who bring coolers, food, drinks to the track on weekends/holidays just looking for a place to spend the day. I’m not even talking about alcohol(is and for good reason), but think about the people who showed up on Memorial day with all they’re friends and spend an awesome day in the backyard, they cannot do the same thing on Belmont day and that just kinda sucks. the essence of the NY racing experience (Belmont and Saratoga) is bringing your cooler and spending the day out back on a picnic table with friends and or family, and thats lost on Belmont day

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