Attendance fell by more than 15% and handle declined by 11.2% at the recently concluded 60-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet. The lack of a Triple Crown opportunity contributed heavily to a 15.17% drop in attendance from 499,166 in 2004 to 423,405 this year. A management decision to terminate simulcast agreements with 10 rebate sites was a key factor in an 11.2% decline in total commingled handle from a daily average $12,521,951 to $11,120,068. On-track handle on Belmont Park races only declined 10.86% from a daily average of $1,762,361 to $1,570,838.The one-day impact of Belmont Stakes day weighed heavily in determining the final numbers. A record gathering of 120,139 attended last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) to witness Smarty Jones' unsuccessful bid for racing's Triple Crown and total wagering was a Belmont Park record $114 million. This year's Belmont day crowd was 62,274.
"If you erase Belmont Stakes day from the equation, we were down only 3.6 percent in attendance, 6.14 percent in on-track handle and 7.7 percent in total commingled handle," said Bill Nader, New York Racing Association senior vice president. "Additionally, field sizes declined as compared to the previous year, which is a problem that has plagued the entire industry this year."