02/04/2016 3:00PM

Handle rises 2.2 percent in January


Wagering on U.S. races in January was up 2.2 percent over betting on U.S. races in January 2015, while the number of races held during the month fell 6.1 percent, according to figures released Thursday by Equibase.

Wagering during January was $830.5 million, according to the figures, compared with $812.6 million in January 2015. The number of races held last month was 2,392, compared with 2,547 in January 2015.

Last month had 10 weekend dates, while January 2015 had nine weekend dates. Handle is generally higher on weekend dates. New Year’s Day this year was a Friday, while last year, it was a Thursday.

Average handle per race in January was $347,210, up 8.8 percent from January 2015. Average field size per race last month was up 1.9 percent to 8.47 horses from 8.31 horses in January 2015.

Purses distributed during the month totaled $63.0 million, down 4.6 percent from $66.0 million in January 2015. The average purse per race was up 1.6 percent, to $26,343. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casinos. Last year, the average purse per race was a record, in large part due to a significant decline in the number of races held.