10/04/2014 8:06PM

Handle on U.S. races down sharply during September

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Wagering on U.S. races plummeted in September by the largest monthly margin in recent history when compared with the same month of the previous year, according to figures released by Equibase on Saturday, driven downward by a sharp decline in both races and starts at U.S. racetracks.

Total wagering in the month was $693.6 million, down 10.6 percent compared with handle in September 2013, when wagering was $775.3 million. Betting has not dropped so sharply in one month since Equibase began tracking handle numbers five years ago, in large part because wagering opportunities this September shrank at equally unprecedented rates on a month-by-month basis.

Races held at U.S. tracks in the month dropped 6.9 percent, according to the figures, a decline that reflects the severe pressures facing racetracks because of a precipitous decline in the foal crop from 2010 to 2012. Starts by horses in the month dropped by an even larger rate of 7.7 percent, an indication that field sizes nationwide continue to drop faster than the number of races.

The month of September this year had eight weekend dates, while the month of September last year had nine weekend dates, including two dates of the Labor Day holiday weekend, compared with one day this year.

The sharp September declines drove wagering for the year down 2.5 percent. Races for the year are down 4.1 percent, according to the figures released by Equibase, while starts are down 6.7 percent.

Because of the declines in races held at U.S. racetracks, handle per race for the year is up 1.6 percent, to $254,462 per race.