12/04/2015 2:28PM

Total October, November handle holds steady


Total handle on U.S. races in the months of October and November was virtually even with wagering in the same two months last year, despite a precipitous decline in the number of races held at U.S. tracks, according to figures from Equibase that were combined to provide a more accurate picture of handle.

Handle in the two months this year was $1.679 billion compared with $1.676 billion last year. The figures were combined because this year’s Breeders’ Cup was held entirely in October, whereas last year’s Breeders’ Cup was held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. The scheduling quirk heavily skewed the comparison on a month-to-month basis.

Races held during the two months dropped from 6,487 last year to 5,868 this year, a decline of 9.5 percent. Handle per race during the two months jumped 10.7 percent. Racetracks are cutting race dates from their schedules to try to maintain field sizes in the wake of large declines in the foal crop from 2010 to 2012.

For the year, handle on U.S. races is up marginally, 0.74 percent, while the number of races has dropped 5.85 percent. The average handle per race in the United States so far this year, with one month remaining, is up 7 percent.

While purses are down this year by 1.7 percent, the decline in races has meant that the average purse per race has hit record levels in the United States. So far this year, the average purse is $28,317. Purses at U.S. tracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenues.

Starts for the year are down 4.11 percent, and since that rate is higher than the 5.85 percent decline in races, field size for the year is up slightly.