02/04/2013 1:02PM

Equibase reports U.S. handle down from 2012 in January


Handle on U.S. races in the month of January was down 2.0 percent compared with the same month in 2012, according to figures released by Equibase on Monday, in large part because of a 7 percent contraction in race days during the month.

Frigid temperatures led many East Coast racetracks to cancel race cards late in January, a significant factor in the decline in race days. Many racetracks also are paring their schedules because of a desire to maintain field sizes in the face of significant declines in the foal crop over the past five years, including a 14 percent drop in 2010. The 2010 crop is now 3 years old.

Race days declined from 315 last January to 292 in January of this year, according to the Equibase figures. Total handle dropped from $819.1 million to $802.5 million. Per race day, average handle was up 5.8 percent, from $2.60 million last January to $2.75 million this January.

Total purse distribution in U.S. races during the month was up marginally, 0.4 percent, despite the decline in race days. Purses in the United States are heavily subsidized by revenue from casinos.

In 2012, total handle on U.S. races was up for the first time since 2006, though only by 1 percent. The total number of races held during the year also was up marginally, but the recent decline in the foal crop is expected to start taking a significant toll on field size this year.