03/04/2013 1:26PM

Handle falls 6.6% in February as race days decline

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The number of race days at U.S. tracks in February plummeted 10.8 percent compared to the same number last February, with handle and purses falling in lockstep but at lesser rates, according to figures released Monday by Equibase.

Race days in the month fell from 332 last February to 296 this February, according to the figures. The reduction included the four race days that Aqueduct canceled during the month as part of a management-led initiative to pare the racing schedule, along with a handful of weather-related cancellations at other tracks.

Handle fell 6.6 percent, according to the figures, from $884.3 million last February to $826.3 million this February. Because the decline in race days outpaced the decline in handle, the average handle per race day in the month rose 4.8 percent, from $2.66 million last February to $2.73 million this February.

Purse distribution fell 6.7 percent, from $71.0 million last February to $66.2 million this February. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by revenues from casinos.

For the first two months of the year, race days have fallen 9.1 percent, while handle has fallen 4.4 percent and purses have fallen 3.3 percent. Racetracks are expected to face significant difficulties this year maintaining field size without paring racing schedules, due to the coming-of-age of horses from the foal crops of 2010 and 2011, which were both down double digits.

Nathan More than 1 year ago
typical spin on the numbers. if aqu closed wednesdays, more money will be bet on g.p and tampa. with these idiotically high take-outs, it's just grinding the little guy to death. the only thing to save racing is exchange betting. what are the tracks afraid of?
Frank More than 1 year ago
The answer is not more horses -- its less races! We are going in the right direction. I'm for not having any races up north in the winter. Race in south only! Then in the summer race up north only! I mean WTF -- everyone by now has heard of simulcast wagering. Less races with more quality fields and field sizes make for better betting! Why squeeze a live race card with 6, 5 or 4 horse fields?
Bob More than 1 year ago
To be expected if horses keep retiring early everytime they win a few G1's . Just like college basketball players leaving early for the nba makes for crappy college games. They've made it a business so expect it. Who wants to bet on a large field of $3000 camels. We want quality not field size.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Bob -- do you bet much? A better wants quality fields AND field size. Its all about the odds -- small fields produce small odds -- larger more competitive fields produce better odds. It is that simple.
avlamal More than 1 year ago
import horses from s africa-nice horses there racing fior low purses as is in england
Nathan More than 1 year ago
it's the birth dates. messes everything up for them. they are automatically 6 months older when they arrive in n.a.