ONLY 90,000 Tickets for the Belmont Stakes? How Elitist! (NOT.)

Marion Altieri,New York writer

Marion Altieri,New York writer

Some people enjoy being miserable.

Or they enjoy making other people miserable.

Or it might just be that they love belly-aching, always finding something about which to complain.

Last year, when California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid brought 102,000 people to Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes–some things weren’t perfect.  From what I hear–honestly, I had no negative experiences at last year’s Belmont Stakes.  None of the things about which people lamented affected me, at all.

I had no bad moments.  So I can’t confirm or deny the validity of any complaints.

I do have memories of Smarty Jones‘ 2004 Triple Crown bid.  I was there with three friends, and 120,000 strangers. Our seats were in the westernmost part of the grandstand:  top floor, section CC.  Only the poor slobs in section DD were farther from the finish line.  Actually, both sections are closer to the Empire State Building than to the finish.  But we had a great time, in spite of Smarty’s loss.   We had to hike to Mars to use the women’s room, then wait for 45 minutes in line. (If you’re a woman, you know that this is not the easiest thing to do…)

We stood in line for over two hours just to get out of the building–our car was parked behind the backstretch.  (It did occur to us, DUH, at some time during those two hours, that we should just SIT and chill–drink coffee and talk–for a couple of hours.)

I don’t know why my friends and I took a similar experiences and just went with the flow.  Do not misquote me:  I’m not writing that we’re superior people, I think we just figured it was all part of the Huge Race Day experience, and we had to deal with it.

So it seems that last year’s Belmont was a blast for some of us, a major disappointment for others.

(YES, I was AT Belmont Park.  YES, I was sober.  NO, I wasn’t watching from home.)

But apparently many people had complaints of one-sort-or-another, so…

Fast-forward to this year.

Again, the Triple Crown is on the line.  And the Belmont Stakes is the hottest ticket in sports.

Belmont Stakes Logo 2015

This year, it’s American Pharoah who hopes to make history. (Whether or not he has the gas to do it is the topic for another column, at another time.)

But needless-to-say, many people–including Pharoahies, as I’m calling them–will want to be there.

Just in case history is made.


BUT on May 6th–four days after Pharoah won his Kentucky Derby–NYRA announced that paid attendance at the Belmont Stakes would be capped at 90,000.

When I read that press release, I breathed a sigh of relief.   Wise move on NYRA’s part. Considerate of everyone who scores a ticket.  Good move, NYRA!


And from my own perspective:  everyone who knows me that I far prefer the company of horses to that of humans.  Ninety-thousand human beings is plenty, ThankYouVeryMuch.

Not that I’ll be any more psychologically sound, surrounded by 90,000 people–but if NYRA had just said, “Come one, come all,” I’d be banging my agonizing head on a post, all day long.  I’m just not a fan of the human species.  (I know–I am a human being.  Quite the conundrum for me, don’t you think?)


But there we were:  almost one solid year of people grousing about Belmont last year, and about NYRA.  I didn’t have any of their negative experiences, so I either defended NYRA or I let the words slide off my shoulders.  I just kept doing my thing.

So.  NYRA announced that they’re capping the number of attendeesin consideration of those who said they had negative experiences last year.  Only 90,000 tickets will be sold, in total.  Period.  Finito.  No discussion.

Great, yes?

But apparently, some people just don’t want to be happy about anything.

NOW some of the same voices are bleating, that–here we are, with a Triple Crown bid–and DamnThatNYRA–now, they’re going to keep people from attending who may want to attend.  That’s so elitist of NYRA, they’re claiming.

(“Oh, my GOD!” thinks Marion–“…those people should have thought about it, and bought tickets when they had the chance!”  But no, it’s NYRA’s fault, not the fault of those who didn’t get online and buy tickets.  What kind of  ridiculous sense does that make?)

Damned if NYRA does, damned if NYRA doesn’t.

The thought of “only” 90,000 opportunities to buy tickets two weeks ago wasn’t enough for some  people.
And now that the Triple Crown is on the line–now, now they’re really frosted.

How dare NYRA put a cap on a day that may go down in history?
How dare they try to accommodate “only” 90,000 people?

Why, that’s practically a private party!!
I’m sure that only Vanderbilts and Astors could get in on it.

Fast-forward again, but this time to a planet where rational thinking lives.
A Facebook friend of mine noted that there’s no such thing as a major sporting event of any other kind that allows unlimited admissions.

Have you ever heard of the NFL opening the gates for a Super Bowl, saying,
“Sure, seats are all sold out, but what the Hell–bring your cash, you can stand somewhere.

Of course you haven’t.  For many reasons, including fire safety regulations–no football stadium is set up to accommodate 170,000 human bodies.

Nor would they try.

Super Bowl ticket prices are astronomical, but they fill the appointed stadium every year.

And never do you hear football fans crabbing, that the NFL should open the gates and basically sell standing-room space, and AIR–so that anyone who wants to attend, can.

Yet here we are, the horse racing community.  And we find that many of the people who last year were miserable at the Belmont Stakes–are angry because of a theory.  The theory being that, 90,000 tickets were/are available–but apparently, that’s not enough.

Those same unhappy people may not want to be there, themselves–but they’re mad at NYRA because it seems to them that NYRA is preventing someone from attending.

Here’s the deal:  there are tickets left–I’m sure that General Admission is available at this writing, and a friend from Texas just texted me to say that she’d gotten Clubhouse seats.  So, scattered as they may be tonight (May 17th) there are tickets to be had.  Put on your Big Boy or Big Girl Pants, and go online.  If you want to go, go.

If you don’t want to go, don’t complain because NYRA limited the number of tickets, because, really–if you don’t want to attend–why do you care?

NYRA’s trying to do what’s best for everyone: for the horses, their connections–and for the safety and satisfaction of every single one of the 90,000 people who will pay to be there, history-making-event, or not.   Those who aren’t there on June 6th will be absent for one of two reasons:

*  They didn’t want to be.
*  They wanted to be, but couldn’t compel themselves to buy tickets between May 6th and whenever 90,000 tickets run out.

This will sound harsh, but no more harsh than the insults hurled at NYRA during the last year:

Get online, or get over it.*

Tempus fugit, friends.  He who hesitates is lost, and may lose out on the opportunity of a lifetime.



*Don’t blame NYRA for my abrupt words, I take full responsibility.