08/04/2016 11:58AM

Handle on U.S. races rises sharply in July

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Wagering on Thoroughbred races at U.S. tracks jumped 12.3 percent in July when compared with the same month last year, largely due to an increase in weekend dates, according to figures released Thursday by Equibase.

July of this year had 10 weekend dates, while July of last year had eight weekend dates. Wagering on weekends is far higher than betting on weekdays.

Betting during July of this year was $1.01 billion, up from $903 million in July 2015. The number of races held during the month was 4,460, up 4.8 percent over July 2015. Average wagering per race was $227,428, up 7.2 percent from $212,207 in July 2015.

The total amount of purses distributed during the month was $116.0 million, up 11.9 percent from $103.7 in July last year. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenue, and the average distribution on a weekend is typically larger than the weekday figure.

Average field size per race declined slightly during the month, from 7.55 horses last year to 7.39 horses. Racing officials consider an average of eight horses per race to be a healthy field size in the U.S.

For the year, wagering on U.S. races is up 2.8 percent, according to Equibase. The number of races held is down 2.3 percent, while purses are up 1.5 percent.