Point Given's Belmont romp was witnessed by a television audience that improved by 44% over 2000.

Point Given's Belmont romp was witnessed by a television audience that improved by 44% over 2000.

Mike Corrado

Belmont TV Ratings Up 44%, Handle Records Set

Overnight television ratings for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) jumped 44 percent to 4.9 and captured 13 percent of Saturday afternoon's viewing audience in the country's top 51 media markets.

ABC earned a 3.4 rating and a 9 percent market share for its last broadcast after 14 years of continuous coverage. This year's rating continued building throughout NBC's 5-6:30 p.m. telecast. The rating peaked between 6-6:30 p.m. at 5.8 and a 15 percent market share.

The overnight rating ties 1992 and 1993 as the second highest rating for the Belmont Stakes when a Triple Crown title was not at stake. The highest overnight rating in a non-Triple Crown year was a 5.3 earned when Hansel won in 1991. Hansel also won the Preakness (gr. I) that year.

Besides the showdown between Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos and Preakness (gr. I) winner Point Given, the race was helped by a cliffhanger edition of the French Open women's finals, which preceded NBC Sports' race coverage. American Jennifer Capriati defeated Belgian Kim Clijsters after an exhausting 12-10 tiebreaker.

The Belmont Stakes Day also attracted a record on-track handle of $10,581,093 and a record commingled handle of $68,323,600. The on-track handle increased slightly from the previous record of $10,577,736 set during the 1990 Breeders' Cup. The commingled handle increased 0.6 percent from the previous record set during the 1999 Belmont Stakes when Charismatic fell short in his bid for the Triple Crown.

The total all-sources handle for the day was $72,760,200, which did not set any records. The record is $74,133,188 set in 1999.
Commingled wagering on the Belmont Stakes alone reached $31,890,717, while the all-source handle on the race was $34,959,635.

The higher handle figures were unquestionably helped by a 12th race added to the card. But equally helped by the fourth largest crowd in Belmont Stakes history. The race attracted 73,857 people, which was a 9 percent larger crowd than attended last year. Belmont's record crowd of 85,818 attended the race in 1999. The on-track handle for the race was $2,707,574, or about 35 percent higher than last year.

NYRA president Terry Meyocks attributed the strong ratings and higher handle figures to good marketing, greater publicity by NBC's New York affiliate, and some special promotion such as the $50,000 wager placed on behalf of "Imus in the Morning" radio star Don Imus. The $62,782 in earnings from the wager was donated to the Imus Ranch in New Mexico, which is a haven for children with cancer and the surviving siblings of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. After receiving a donation from the NTRA, Imus bet the money in the Kentucky Derby to increase the donation. He parlayed the money throughout the Triple Crown. The $50,000 donation was guaranteed in the even he had no winning tickets.

"We have been working for years to make this an event and were helped by having a Triple Crown bid for three consecutive years," said Meyocks referring to 1997-1999. "Well, we've built on that and the people who came during those years had a good time and are coming back."