05/04/2016 11:51AM

Handle on U.S. races up 8.5 percent in April


Handle on U.S. races in April was up 8.5 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by Equibase, continuing a five-month trend in which handle has risen compared to the same months in 2015.

Handle during the month was $929.1 million, up from $859.5 million in April last year. This year, April had one additional weekend date than in April last year, and this year, the Florida Derby was held in April rather than March, as it was last year.

The rise in handle outpaced a 4.5 percent rise in the number of races held this April, which reversed a long trend in which the number of races held at U.S. racetracks has been declining, sometimes starkly. In March, the number of races dropped 8.5 percent.

Average handle per race in April was $296,081, up 3.4 percent from $286,224 in April 2015. Field size was up 1.9 percent to 7.67 horses per race, according to calculations based on the Equibase figures.

Through April, handle is up 4.4 percent for the year, according to the figures, while races are down 2.9 percent.

Due in large part to the higher number of races, U.S. purses in April were up 6.9 percent to $90.2 million. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenue. For the year, purses are up 0.2 percent.