10/03/2002 11:00PM

Handle up through September


Despite a sluggish economy and the volatility of the stock market, total North American parimutuel wagering on Thoroughbred racing in the United States jumped 4.1 percent during the first nine months of the year, according to figures released by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase on Friday.

Commingled handle during the first three quarters of this year from Canadian and U.S. sources was $11.6 billion, according to the figures, compared with $11.1 billion during the first nine months last year. Purses at U.S. tracks increased 1.1 percent to $808.9 million, the figures showed, compared with $800 million through the first nine months of 2001. Race days increased slightly, from 5,073 to 5,082.

The third quarter ended on Sept. 30. The date is meaningful because handle was off significantly last year following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Many tracks closed for several days following the attacks, while two others, Belmont and the Meadowlands, were closed for a week.

The report is the first quarterly update issued by the NTRA and Equibase, which collects and sells racing data to fans, tracks, and other companies, including Daily Racing Form. Equibase had previously released handle and purse figures at the end of the year.

NTRA officials said they planned to consolidate the handle and purse statistics with television ratings and other research results to present a more comprehensive picture of the industry's health.

The NTRA "will analyze the numbers and share them with the industry as they become available," said Keith Chamblin, the NTRA's senior vice president of marketing.