01/10/2003 1:00AM

British firms merge U.S. coverage

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Two companies competing to offer U.S. racing to British bettors have agreed to consolidate their operations, the companies announced Friday.

The Racing Network International, owned by Greenwood Racing, and Attheraces, the British consortium that purchased broadcast rights to most British racetracks in 2001, signed an agreement to promote U.S. horse racing broadcasts jointly beginning Feb. 1.

The two companies will broadcast up to 50 U.S. races a night and offer betting directly into U.S. commingled pools.

TRN International has been broadcasting U.S. races over satellite in prime-time hours in Britain for nearly two years, often in competition with other races shown by Attheraces, including some from the U.S.

Earlier this year, TRN began commingling bets placed through British bookmakers into U.S. pools through a hub in Oregon. In the second quarter of 2002, handle through the hub was $1.2 million, but it skyrocketed in the third quarter of 2002 to $34 million.