10/13/2005 11:00PM

Purses up for quarter

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Purses paid out during the third quarter at racetracks in the United States and Canada showed a 4.7 percent increase over purses in the third quarter last year, according to figures released Friday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase, the data collection firm.

The purse growth came about despite a 1.5 percent decline in handle in the Unites States and Canada compared with the third quarter last year. Live race days were flat.

Through the first six months of 2005, handle had dropped 5 percent, continuing a trend that began in 2004, when annual handle declined for the first time since 1993.

Much of the purse growth in the third quarter can be tied to the increasing number of racetracks that derive subsidies from slot machines, as well as additional racing days during the quarter at Colonial Downs in Virginia and Delaware Park.

Wagering fell in the quarter from $3.92 billion last year to $3.86 billion this year. During the third quarter, all-sources handle at Saratoga Race Course in New York, the most popular third-quarter signal by average daily wagering, fell by 5.5 percent.

Total purse money distributed in the quarter was $330.6 million, compared to $315.7 million in the 2004 third quarter. Race days were 1,996, compared to 1,995 last year.