Records in attendance and handle for Belmont Park and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) were set Saturday as Birdstone upset heavily-favored Smarty Jones in the 136th running of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) before a crowd of 120,139. The previous attendance record was 103,222 during the Belmont Stakes two years ago.
Despite a weather forecast of rain, wind and below-average temperatures, the record crowd saw jockey Edgar Prado pull off another stunning Belmont Stakes upset. Birdstone, a 36-1 longshot, paid $74 for a $2 win wager. Two years ago, Prado guided Sarava ($142.50) to a record $2 win payoff when War Emblem made his bid for the Visa Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
Smarty Jones finished second to Birdstone as the shortest-priced Belmont Stakes favorite since Spectacular Bid in 1979.
The record crowd produced an all-time record for on-track handle at any NYRA track with $14,461,402 wagered on the 13-race presentation. The previous record of $13,165,397 was set during the 2001 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. The previous Belmont Stakes day record of $12,973,555 was set last year.
Total commingled handle was $110,994,890, easily besting the previous mark of $98,835,163 from the 2001 Breeders' Cup and the Belmont Stakes day record of $90,703,830 that was set in 2002.
Total handle from all sources was also a new record of $114,887,594, smashing the previous record of $103,257,457 from the 2001 Breeders' Cup and the 2002 Belmont Stakes day record of $95,443,037.
"Today's crowd demonstrated the loyalty and passion New York fans have for the sport of Thoroughbred racing, coming out despite a bad weather forecast to see Smarty Jones and the Belmont Stakes," said Barry K. Schwartz, NYRA's Chairman and CEO. "New York fans showed they are the best in the nation. The enthusiasm of this crowd was spectacular."
On-track handle for the Belmont Stakes was a record $4,331,463 and overall handle on the Belmont Stakes was also set a record at $63,671,706. The previous marks were $3,753,983 and $54,503,406, respectively, both set in 2002.
The day also generated a new record for Pick 4 wagering in New York with $1,739,609 on a pool that featured a $1 million guarantee.