06/03/2009 11:00PM

Handle decline slows in May

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Wagering declines on Thoroughbred racing in the United States continued but slowed in May, according to figures released Thursday by Equibase, the industry data-collection firm. Purses also declined, but to a lesser degree.

Total handle in May was $1,375,229,442, down 8.26 percent from May 2008. Purses fell 6.73 percent to $105,106,967 from their levels in May 2008. The number of race days also dropped 4.93 percent, from 629 last May to 598, a factor that helped drive handle down.

May's losses showed improvement over those in April, when wagering fell by 10 percent and purses slipped 9 percent from April 2008.

The May figures include handle on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The Derby's all-sources handle was down 8.7 percent this year, but all-sources wagering on the Preakness soared by 30 percent to its second-highest level ever at $59,726,342.

For the year through the end of May, wagering decreased 9.22 percent from the first five months of 2008 to $5,510,415,896 this year.

Again, the drop in purses was shallower for that time frame, at 5.54 percent to $403,346,939.

Race dates during that period declined by less than 1 percent, falling from 2,216 last year to 2,194 this season.

The Equibase figures include worldwide commingled wagering on U.S. races.