For the first time ever, there will be a limit to how many fans can attend the Belmont Stakes this year.
The New York Racing Association will cap total reserved and general admission attendance for the June 6 Belmont at 90,000.
The decision comes on the heels of a 2014 Belmont that drew 102,199 to watch the Triple Crown bid by California Chrome, which was thwarted by Tonalist.
Fans experienced a variety of problems, such as long lines, concessions running out of food and drink, and, perhaps most glaring, difficulty leaving the track because of an overcrowded train platform and poorly organized parking lot exits.
According to reports, it took some people as long as four hours just to get off the grounds.
If Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah wins the Preakness at Pimlico on May 16, NYRA will be bracing for another large crowd.
The track typically doesn’t draw more than 60,000 for the Belmont when there is no Triple Crown on the line.
“We encourage our fans to purchase their tickets in advance and secure their place for New York’s traditional kickoff to the summer season,” NYRA president and CEO Chris Kay said.
Besides putting a cap on ticket sales, NYRA has raised ticket prices this year for what it is billing as the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival for June 4-6.
The weekend will feature 17 graded stakes and over $10 million in purses, highlighted by the $1.5 million Belmont.
As part of NYRA’s effort to bolster specific big-ticket events, the Belmont Festival will also include performances by the rock bands Goo Goo Dolls, who will play on Belmont Day, and O.A.R., booked for that Friday, June 5.
Also performing during the race card on Belmont Day will be musicians from the United States Military Academy and members of the cast of the Broadway musical “Jersey Boys.”
The Goo Goo Dolls are scheduled to play a short set near the winner’s circle during the gap between the Manhattan Handicap and the Belmont, then will play a concert after the last race on the card.
NYRA said it hopes that the concert will help stagger the crowd exit so that not everyone will be trying to leave the grounds at the same time.
The general admission prices have been increased from $10 to $15 for grandstand and from $30 to $40 for clubhouse. The price of reserved seats in most sections have also been raised.
NYRA and the Long Island Railroad will have $5 million in upgrades to the station and platform at the track completed by Belmont Day.
NYRA plans to increase cellphone and Wi-Fi service for the Belmont.
Trainer Arnaud Delacour confirmed that Lael Stable’s Divining Rod is on course to run in the 140th Preakness.
Lael Stable campaigned 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who broke down coming out of the gate in the Preakness.
Diving Rod was on the bubble to qualify for the Derby, but Delacour and Lael Stable’s Roy and Gretchen Jackson decided to pass and wait for the Preakness.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said he has four candidates for the Preakness. Itsaknockout, the ninth-place finisher in the Derby co-owned by Starlight Racing’s Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg, won’t run.
Pletcher is considering two of his Derby runners, Materiality (sixth) and Carpe Diem (10th), as well as the undefeated Competitive Edge, who was an impressive winner in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard.
Stanford, scratched two days before the Derby, also is possible for the Preakness. He was under consideration for Saturday’s Peter Pan at Belmont, but was not entered.
Starlight’s Two Weeks Off, coming off a nice first-level allowance win at Keeneland, is among the five horses in the Peter Pan field.