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Belmont Stakes Can Miss Out on Triple Crown History, But Still End up in the Winner’s Circle

31 May, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

With one big surge, a horse with a name that could only arise out of the Information Age has killed the chance of a Triple Crown for 2017.

But don’t worry, New York; you’ll still see plenty of action come Saturday, June 10. After all, we saw proof last year when Exaggerator left Derby winner Nyquist in the dust to claim the black-eyed Susans. It didn’t stop Belmont Park from packing in the crowds and it didn’t stop them from spending money at the betting window.

Unfortunately, none of that will keep people from looking at Cloud Computing as the spoiler, though, and it definitely means the race won’t go down in history.

Historically, there is less public interest in a race without so much at stake, and nowhere will that be more evident than in TV viewership, which drops off precipitously. According to an article in the USA TODAY’s Courier Journal, AwfulAnnouncing.com, which studies TV viewership and trends, found that Belmont Stakes ratings since 2000 have been on average nearly three times as high as when the Kentucky Derby winner has a potential Triple Crown on the line. The 10 races when the sweep wasn’t a factor drew an average of 6.15 million viewers. But the five that involved a Triple Crown bid registered 16.74 million viewers. (Count on there to be fewer watch parties this year as well, which will feed into the need for less food and beverage to be purchased by consumers.)

In a typical year, the attendance at the Belmont Stakes is among American thoroughbred racing’s top attended events. And normally, when there’s a Triple Crown at stake, attendance would rise exponentially. (This year’s Preakness saw record crowds, for example.) But spectator numbers are irrelevant since Belmont Park began capping attendance at 90,000 in order to avoid problems with lines, crowding and traffic congestion – all of which occurred in 2014 when California Chrome failed in his bid for a three-peat.  (For the record, an all-time-high attendance of 120,139 was recorded in 2004, when Smarty Jones similarly missed out on Triple Crown history.)

But betting will go on as planned. According to an article in New Jersey, the 90,000 individuals who were present in 2015 resulted in $6.6 million being wagered at the racetrack, while off-track betting totaled $75 million. Overall, it was the second-highest day of wagering in the NYRA’s history, with a reported $134.8 million wagered on the 13-race Belmont Park card.

And even if there is an attendance drop, business owners surrounding Belmont Park will expect the area to be packed, noted the Long Island Press last year.

“Of course, it’s busier when there’s a Triple Crown up for grabs, maybe it’s a 10-15 percent difference,” said Tracy Cooleen, general manager of Jameson Bar and Grill in Floral Park, one of dozens of businesses on Tulip Avenue that feels the impact of attendance numbers at the Belmont Stakes. “The area is busy either way, but certainly you can tell when it’s a Triple Crown year.”

But make no mistake, concessionaires will be doing a fine business, and spectators will be washing everything down with the official drink of the race, the Belmont Jewel. (Want the recipe? Here you go.)

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