Belmont Stakes Draws Strong Crowd Despite Scratch Of I'll Have AnotherPublished June 11, 2012
STAR ATTRACTION: In L.A., Bill Dwyre wrote they “paraded poor I'll Have Another out for a ceremony in the winner's circle” before the race on Saturday. The original plan, after the announcement of his withdrawal, “was to have him lead the parade to the post for the Belmont, but that sounded silly and smelled of a panic ticket-sales pitch.” Instead, they “saddled up I'll Have Another one more time, walked him to the winner's circle, had jockey Mario Gutierrez climb aboard one more time -- this time in white shirt and tie -- and had [Trainer Doug] O'Neill ceremoniously unsaddle him a last time.” Dwyre: “At best, it was just one more photo op. At worst, it was unneeded schmaltz. Who knows? It might have helped keep a crowd expected to be around 120,000 before the I'll Have Another scratch to a nice 85,811” (L.A. TIMES, 6/10). In N.Y., Joe Drape wrote there was a “polite but reserved reception” for I’ll Have Another “when a made-for-television send-off was staged for him” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote, “Some race at the Belmont on this day, a horse and a rider who were both something to see. Just not the race they had come to see, not the horse they had come to see” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10). YAHOO SPORTS’ Pat Forde wrote under the header, “I’ll Have Another’s Absence Diminishes Exciting Finish To Belmont Stakes” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/9).
A SPORT IN NEED: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Pia Catton wrote the scratch of I’ll Have Another came “at an awkward time for thoroughbred racing, which has been limping on a number of fronts” (WSJ.com, 6/8). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the scratch was a “gigantic blow” to horse racing. L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke called it a "debacle for horse racing." Plaschke: "It desperately needs the average fan. ... It’s the only time of the year that they’ll watch horse racing -- if it’s the Belmont and if there’s a chance for the Triple Crown -- and now they’ve lost all that." Columnist Kevin Blackistone noted the Triple Crown winner possibility "would not be a panacea to all that ails horse racing.” Blackistone: “Horse racing’s got a whole host of problems. However, this is the one time or maybe two times out of the year where people really tune in to watch horse racing" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/8). San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy said, “If you need a Triple Crown potential to bring interest to horse racing then horse racing isn’t much” ("Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 6/8). In Chicago, Rick Telander wrote under the header, “Aborted Triple Crown Bid Latest Nail In Coffin For Horse Racing.” Telander wrote, “Horse racing, sleazy and half-dead as it is, trots back into the shed for another year” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/9). ESPN.com’s Bill Finley wrote horse racing “never seems to get it right.” But at some point, “everyone and everything needs a break” (ESPN.com, 6/8).
HORSE RACING IS FINE: The N.Y. TIMES’ Melissa Hoppert asked NBC horse racing analyst Donna Barton Brothers why the Triple Crown was important to horse racing. Barton Brothers said, "I can remember people would say, racing needs this or this is going to be the nail in the coffin. ... Our last Derby broadcast had the highest numbers that it had ever seen and the biggest crowd it had ever seen.” She added, “I think horse racing is fine and will always be fine” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10). The Chicago Tribune's Bob Foltman said a Triple Crown winner "would have been nice, but it doesn't sound a death nail for horse racing and I don’t think it wouldn't have been a savior for horse racing.” Arlington Park Senior Dir of Marketing & Communications Howard Sudberry said, “The industry doesn't need saving. Horse racing will always be there. ... It just brings more attention to the sport and it gets people that don’t follow it on an everyday basis to look at it and realize there’s a lot of excitement to horse racing, and then they come back” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 6/8).
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