A record 36,000 riders took the Long Island Railroad Saturday to attend the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y.
People were encouraged to use mass transit, taking an under-15 minute ride from Jamaica Station to Belmont rather than waiting in traffic on the road.
The LIRR expected over 100,000 attendees with about 20,000 traveling by rail. With the Triple Crown on the line, ridership was 80 percent higher than expected.
“We were prepared, ready, and ran a lot of extras,” said LIRR spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. LIRR planned to run 18 trains to Belmont from Penn Station and Jamaica, and 20 trains back. They ran 26 each way.
“The extra trains were load and go; we had staff on hand monitoring and as soon as the train was loaded, they would go,” Anders said.
Attendance on Saturday was the third highest of the 146 Belmont Stakes races, totaling 102,199 people. The last record attendance was 120,139 in 2004.
Belmont Stakes set other New York Racing Association (NYRA) records as well, with an all-time high on-track handle of $19,105,877 and all-sources handle of $150,249,399.
“We’re so proud of this record-breaking day of racing at Belmont Park and give our special thanks to the more than 102,000 fans who joined us this afternoon,” stated Chris Kay, NYRA president.
The race winner Tonalist had not raced in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. The races were pre-requisites to winning the Triple Crown, which many expected California Chrome to be well positioned for.
After the race, California Chrome owner Steve Coburn told NBC Sports, “I’ll never see, and I’m 61 years old, another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime because of the way they do this.”
“It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day One. If you don’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you [shouldn’t] run in the other two races,” Coburn said. “It’s all or nothing because this is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people who believe in them. This is a coward’s way out, in my opinion.”