04/21/2008 12:00AM

Handle, purses decline in U.S. for first quarter


All-sources handle on races in the United States declined in the first quarter of 2008 by 3.1 percent from first quarter of 2007, according to figures released by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase on Monday. Purses declined as well, by 1.5 percent compared with the first quarter of 2007.

Wagering on U.S. races in the first quarter of this year was $3.43 billion, according to the organizations, compared with $3.54 billion in the first quarter of last year. Purses declined from $227 million to $223.6 million.

Race days declined from 1,150 in the first quarter of last year to 1,139 days this year in the first quarter, principally because of a greater number of cancellations, the NTRA and Equibase said.

Santa Anita Park in California, which struggled with weather and racing-surface issues at the beginning of the year, lost eight days of racing this year. Santa Anita leads the country in wagering and purse figures during the first quarter.

Handle has declined on Thoroughbred races in the United States for three of the past four years, though purses have been gaining in the same time frame because of the influence of slot-machine subsidies on purse allocations.