The Belmont Stakes attracted more television viewers than last year, even after Triple Crown chance I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the race.
The race portion of NBC’s June 9 broadcast gained an overnight rating of 5.4 and a share of 13, an increase of 13 percent from 2011, according to the Nielsen Company.
It was the biggest television audience in a non-Triple Crown year since 2005, NBC said in a news release.
I’ll Have Another, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the first two events in thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, was retired June 8 when doctors found the beginnings of tendinitis in his left front leg.
Union Rags won the 1 1/2-mile (2.4 kilometer) Belmont in two minutes, 30.42 seconds in a photo finish over Paynter to claim the $600,000 winner’s purse. Bodemeister, who finished second to I’ll Have Another in the Derby and Preakness, also didn’t run the Belmont.
A crowd of 85,811, 28 percent less than the 120,000 that the New York Racing Association had expected before I’ll Have Another’s retirement, showed up two days ago at the track in Elmont, New York. It was a record for a Belmont Stakes day in which a Triple Crown couldn’t be won, and 72 percent higher than the 50,000-person average the previous four times a Triple Crown was not on the line, the NYRA said in an e-mailed release.
The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 11 horses have won the first two legs before losing at Belmont, most recently Big Brown in 2008. That year, the television broadcast had a 9.5 overnight rating and 21 share.
Comcast Corp.’s NBC has the rights to show the Belmont, Kentucky Derby and Preakness through 2015.