It was a good day at the races.
The weather held up, and 5-2 second choice Mo Donegal took care of the rest, highlighting Saturday’s festivities with his victory in the 154th Belmont Stakes in front of 46,103 fans at Belmont Park.
Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (7-2), who did not compete in the Preakness, finished a disappointing sixth in the eight-horse field.
Here are seven PlayNY takeaways:
1. Good to see the stands packed again at Belmont Stakes
The coronavirus pandemic led to an empty Belmont Park in 2020 and about 11,000 spectators in 2021.
Pre-Covid, 90,000 fans were allowed. This time, capacity stood at 50,000, with no one in the infield. Still, there were plenty of well-dressed people partaking in the party-like atmosphere.
2. Belmont Park desperately needs renovations
Especially when juxtaposed against brand-new UBS Arena, now the $1.1 billion home of the New York Islanders.
It’s too bad the $450 million borrowing bill didn’t pass. Because despite its obvious charm, the grandstand definitely needs a facelift. The press box, for example, featured a relic of an elevator, rusty windows, busted pipes and uneven corridor floors.
3. Who says horse racing is dead?
All-sources handle for Belmont Stakes Day was nearly $99 million. Meanwhile, on-track NY horse betting handle was $9.5 million. And the Belmont Stakes generated $50 million in all-sources handle.
Not bad given the lesser capacity and no Triple Crown possibility.
4. New York horse racing needs shared wallet
There’s no reason bettors should need two FanDuel apps, for example, to play the ponies.
But yes, those who already had funds in their FanDuel Sportsbook accounts were redirected to put separate funds in a FanDuel Racing account to bet on the Belmont Stakes.
It’s an unnecessary hassle for bettors. A bill from Sen. Joe Addabbo to include fixed-odds horse racing on the NY sportsbook apps was unfortunately rejected, however. Let’s hope common sense prevails down the line.
5. Belmont Stakes definitely worth the trip
Getting to the Belmont was extremely easy from NYC via the LIRR, just two stops — or about 35 minutes — from Penn Station.
A walkway leads fans from the station right to the grandstand. After successfully attending my first Belmont Stakes, I’d encourage everyone to attend at least once.
6. It’s good to tail the experts — when they’re right
I was fortunate to get some good betting advice from our very own Andrew Champagne (Mo Donegal) and longtime NY horse racing writer Bob Ehalt (Casa Creed).
Casa Creed, co-owned by BetRivers podcaster Mike Francesa, was 4-1 to win Race 8. And, with a late push, he did just that.
7. Let’s get betting kiosks in NY sports venues
The aforementioned bill by Addabbo — which would’ve included both fixed-odds and kiosks — didn’t pass. But there’s really no reason for this.
The betting windows at Belmont were packed throughout the day. And it never ceases to amaze me that there are horse racing kiosks in the press box. Let’s get this done at venues like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. If fans don’t want to engage in NY sports betting on their phones, they should have an easy alternative.