12/04/2009 12:00AM

Breeders' Cup boosts handle figures

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Wagering on U.S. races in November climbed marginally, but the numbers were highly skewed by betting figures on the 14 races of the Breeders' Cup, according to figures released by Equibase on Friday.

Including the $144.6 million bet on the two cards at Santa Anita on Nov. 6 and 7 that featured the 14 Breeders' Cup races, wagering in November was $975.7 million, up 0.7 percent compared to wagering of $969 million in November of 2008. If the two-day Breeders' Cup figures are stripped out of the total, however, wagering for November would be down 14.2 percent. Last year's Breeders' Cup was held in October.

Purses distributed during the month were also highly skewed by the Breeders' Cup, which had total purses of $26.2 million this year. With the figures included, purse distribution was up 24.9 percent, from $83.5 million to $104.3 million. If the Breeders' Cup distributions are stripped out, purses would be down 6.4 percent for the month.

U.S. race handle has declined markedly during the current recession and financial crisis. Through the first 11 months of the year, betting on U.S. races has been $11.56 billion, down 10 percent compared to betting of $12.85 billion through the first 11 months of 2008. Purses are down 5.8 percent, from $1.10 billion to $1.04 billion, and race days are down 2.8 percent, from 5,763 to 5,602.

If the current trends hold, betting this year will be approximately $12.3 billion, the lowest figure since 1997. Racing hit a highwater mark in 2003, when handle was $15.2 million. After hitting that mark, the figures slowly eroded for several years but then plummeted 7.3 percent in 2008.

Comparisons between the October figures for this year and 2008 were also skewed by the different event dates for the Breeders' Cup -- handle was down 17.2 percent, and purses were down 15.6 percent. Adjusted for the effects of the Breeders' Cup, however, handle was down 4 percent, and purses were up 8 percent.