When you look inside the numbers of the 139th Belmont, it was a disaster but not calamitous.

Betting was virtually flat. While handle was down compared to last year, comparing seven-horse fields with the dozen that went postward last year would be unfair. Actually, on-track handle of $9.5 million set a non-Triple Crown Belmont day record.

Attendance figures were calamitous, however. From high atop Belmont Park late last Saturday afternoon, the joint sure looked like it was jumping. There wasnt much blank space between apron standees and there were fannies in virtually every seat.

Surveying the crowd, I told some colleagues Id take over 67,000. What I missed, however, was that the famed backyard was more spacious than filled, and apparently everyone was outside and not inside Belmonts humongous grandstand and clubhouse.

Someone came up and asked my former Newsday colleague, columnist Joe Gergen, how many people do you guys have here today?

Everybody whos not at Clemens, answered Gergen.

Less than 47,000 people saw history made when Rags To Riches beat Preakness winner Curlin and the rest of the boys in the Belmont, but that wasnt the big news in New York last Saturday.

Baseball mercenary Roger Clemens, his return to pinstripes already once delayed, would finally take the mound for the Yankees in the Bronx. As far as I know, each stride he took toward the hill touched the ground before he got there.

Its true that the filly was a last minute Belmont entry and there wasnt much time for publicists to bang the drum. So until the filly reached the finish line a head in front of Curlin, the major Belmont storyline was still the absence of Kentucky Derby-winning Street Sense.

While he certainly had no obligation to do so, Yankee manager Joe Torre, whos enjoyed his share of successful high profile days at the races, could have done his other favorite sport a solid.

Torre was part owner of Sis City, winner of the 2005 Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, and Wild Desert, winner of the $1-million Queens Plate that same year. The Queens Plate is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

So would it have mattered all that much if Clemens started the following day against the same team? Certainly George Steinbrenner, owner of Kinsman Stable, could relate. And if Clemens had started Sunday, he still would have been ready for the Mets series this weekend. Either way, Clemens gets wall to wall coverage from the New York tabloids.

Were not saying Torre is at fault here. But he might have helped to make a positive out of a negative. Instead, as far as racetrackers are concerned, starting Clemens on Belmont day made him look clueless.