Tonalist winning the Belmont Stakes.
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Tonalist winning the Belmont Stakes.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

NYRA Reports Improved Handle at Belmont Meet

Despite two fewer race days, total handle was up at Belmont Park.

Thanks in part to a bump in wagering from a Triple Crown being on the line this year in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the Belmont Park spring-summer meet saw improved total all-sources handle numbers compared with 2013 despite running two fewer dates this year.

All-sources handle on NYRA races was $592 million, up 3.9% from $569.6 million in 2013. On-track handle, which includes NYRA Rewards account wagering and simulcast action from Aqueduct on Belmont races was $84.6 million, up 7.7% from $78.5 million in 2013. 

Total and on-track year-over-year handle and attendance increased at the 2014 Belmont Park spring/summer meet, which ran 54 days from May 1 through July 13. 

NYRA officials noted the improved numbers followed efforts to improve the on-track experience and a revamped stakes schedule, including an upgraded Belmont Stakes day card.

"Our collective focus towards improving the quality of racing and enhancing the guest experience are reflected in the strong performance of the recent Belmont meet," said New York Racing Association president Christopher Kay. "This year, we revamped our racing schedule to include not one, but two 'must see' race days with the addition of the Stars & Stripes Festival, and we also debuted new capital improvements designed to further elevate the experience for horseplayers and families alike at Belmont.  

"The results of this effort are clearly encouraging, and continue to grow the strong momentum generated over the past year."

Attendance at Belmont for the spring/summer meet was up 7.1 percent this year, growing from 302,512 from 282,488 in 2013. For the 54 days of the meet, there were 509 races run this year compared with 542 for 56 days in 2013. Belmont Stakes day saw 54,367 more people show up this year than in 2013.

Average betting interests per race were 7.5 (3,828 total) in 2014 compared with 7.8 (4,213 total) in 2013. There were 210 turf races this year with 39 taken off the turf, compared to 234 and 48 taken off the turf in 2013.

Handle on a Belmont Stakes day that featured a Triple Crown on the line and a revamped stakes schedule setting an all-time NYRA single-day record of $150.24 million in all-sources handle. That figure was up more than $60 million compared with last year.

In addition to this year's Belmont Stakes day which set records for handle and featured a revamped, enhanced race card featuring 10 graded stakes races with $8 million in purses, NYRA also debuted a second event over the 4th of July weekend: the Stars & Stripes. With a $3.25 million purse and five stakes races, this festival featured an enhanced racing card, in addition to family-friendly activities and a food truck showcase. Belmont attendance for those three days rose 33%, and total handle improved 18% over last year.  

Other improvements included new high-definition televisions throughout the property, new video display boards in the paddock, added TRAKUS technology, Belmont Café enhancements, and an expanded picnic area.