03/05/2014 12:24PM

Handle falls 4.1 percent in February due to winter cancellations


Handle on U.S. Thoroughbred races dropped 4.1 percent in February when compared to the same month last year due in large part to a 5.1 percent drop in the number of race days, according to figures released Wednesday by Equibase.

Wagering during the month was down from $826.3 million last year to $792.5 million. Race days fell from 296 to 281, with the majority of the loss coming from a glut of cancellations at tracks in the Northeast due to harsh winter weather.

Handle per race day was $2.82 million in February, up less than 1 percent from average handle of $2.79 million during February 2013. Both months had eight weekend days.

Purses distributed at U.S. tracks during the month totaled $62.46 million, down 5.7 percent from $66.23 million in February 2013. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by payments from casinos, which have had a weak start to the year in many states.

For the first two months of the year, handle is down 2.2 percent, according to Equibase. Race days are down only 0.3 percent despite a dramatic decline in the number of horses of racing age because of earlier drops in the foal crop. Purses distributed at U.S. racetracks are down 2.2 percent.