02/07/2003 12:00AM

Jockey Club Fact Book online

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Fact Book, an annual report by The Jockey Club that includes statistics for purses, handle, breeding, and sales, is now available online at http://home.jockeyclub.com.

Prominent in the Fact Book, which was released Friday, is the increase in handle for 2002, the ninth consecutive year that handle has increased for Thoroughbred racing in the United States. Handle climbed 3.5 percent last year to surpass $15 billion for the first time.

Purses also rose, but less so, increasing 0.6 percent to $1.07 billion. Expanded forms of gambling at tracks in Delaware, Louisiana, New Mexico, and West Virginia fueled that increase, the report said.

Breeding and sales statistics for 2002 bore the mark of mare reproductive loss syndrome, the abortion-causing disease that affected at least 2,500 mares in 2001. The number of weanlings available at auction the next season dropped by 18.5 percent, though the proceeds fell by only 6.6 percent.