05/09/2007 11:00PM

Purses rise as handle slips

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Horsemen in the United States were the recipients of a 13.7 percent increase in purses in the first quarter of 2007 because of revenue from slot machines at racetracks, even though handle on races fell marginally in the quarter compared with last year, according to figures released by Equibase and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Purses in the United States rose from $199.6 million in the first quarter of last year to $226.9 million, according to the figures. Since handle was down, the increase was entirely attributable to subsidies provided by slot machines at Gulfstream Park in Florida, Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Sunland Park in New Mexico, and Philadelphia Park in Pennsylvania. All were new first-quarter slots operations or operations that saw gains in slots handle.

First-quarter handle fell from $3.581 billion in 2006 to $3.541 billion this year. That decline reversed a strong fourth quarter of 2006 for Thoroughbred racing, when handle was up 2.69 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005.