12/05/2014 9:44AM

November handle drops 5.6 percent


Wagering on U.S. races was down $51 million, or 5.6 percent, in November of this year compared to the same month last year, according to figures released on Thursday by Equibase, with the decline being nearly entirely attributable to a sharp drop in races and the scheduling of the Breeders’ Cup this year.

Handle during the month was $851.9 million vs. $902.6 million in November of last year, when both days of the Breeders’ Cup two-day event were held in the month. This year, only the Saturday card of the Breeders’ Cup took place in November, with Friday’s card occurring on Oct. 31. Handle on the four Friday Breeders’ Cup races this year was $28.2 million, according to charts.

There were 10 weekend dates in November this year, compared to nine weekend dates last year. Handle is generally far higher on Saturdays and Sundays than on weekdays.

Handle was also negatively impacted by a sharp drop in races held during the month. Total number of races fell 5.2 percent, according to the figures, from 3,174 to 3,010. Total race days fell 4 percent, meaning tracks are not only paring cards as they react to recent declines in the foal crop, but that they are also cutting races from the cards they hold.

Starts by horses during the month dropped 5.9 percent, according to the figures.

Purses, which are heavily subsidized by slot machines revenues, were down 4.2 percent. Per race, however, purses rose slightly during the month.

For the year, handle has dropped 2.4 percent, at a time when the U.S. economy has experienced strong, if uneven, growth. Purses have dropped only 0.7 percent, with U.S. races declining 3.8 percent. Starts are down 6 percent.