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Triple Crown would give racing a bump

The 144th Belmont Stakes

The facts: 5:40 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 5. | Distance: 1 1/2 miles.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds

1. Street Life Lezcano Brown 12-1

2. Unstoppable U. Alvarado McPeek 30-1

3. Union Rags Velazquez Matz 6-1

4. Atigun Leparoux McPeek 30-1

5. Dullahan Castellano Romans 5-1

6. Ravelo’s Boy Solis Azpurua 50-1

7. Five Sixteen Napravnik Schettino 50-1

8. Guyana Star Dweej Desormeaux Shivmangal 50-1

9. Paynter Smith Baffert 8-1

10. Optimizer Nakatani Lukas 20-1

11. I’ll Have Another Gutierrez O’Neill 4-5

12. My Adonis Dominguez Breen 20-1

Updated: July 9, 2012 6:19AM

NEW YORK — By Saturday night, the horse racing world will know if a chestnut colt named I’ll Have Another has done what 11 other contenders have failed to do since 1978: Win the Triple Crown.

But even if he beats his competitors in the Belmont Stakes, questions remain over whether that singular triumph can reinvigorate a sport that has experienced precipitous drops in fan interest, gambling dollars and prestige in the American sports landscape.

And the home of Saturday’s pivotal race is an emblem of racing’s troubles: Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo replaced management of the agency that oversees racing at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga following years of scandal and mismanagement. The three tracks stage more than one third of all the country’s top stakes races and generate a large chunk of gambling income nationwide.

“Just having the Triple Crown on the line is a shot in the arm for the business and from a public relations point of view, we have seen a media bump already,” said Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “We will absolutely have a superstar on our hands if I’ll Have Another wins the race. We have to be prepared to take advantage of that; the problem is we don’t know how many more races he may have.”

Doug Reed, director of the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona, predicts a Triple Crown victory will spark something like the bump a presidential candidate enjoys after a political convention. But, he notes, there have been monumental changes in the culture since Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes 34 years ago.

“The media back then was nothing like it is today, with the Internet and so many other things to attract attention,” he said. He recalls there were slight upticks in interest after the release of the films “Secretariat” and “Seabiscuit” in recent years, but it didn’t last.

“Everything moves so much faster,” Reed said. “Will there be interest in horse racing because of the Triple Crown? Yes, but it will probably fade.”


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