04/13/2006 11:00PM

U.S. handle up on quarter

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All-sources handle on U.S. races climbed 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2006 compared with the first quarter of 2005, reversing a downward trend that began two years ago, according to statistics released by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase on Friday.

Handle in the first quarter was $3,590,607,272, compared with $3,461,489,365 in 2005, according to the statistics. Last year, the first-quarter handle was down 6 percent from the first quarter in 2004.

Purses in the first quarter of 2006 were also up, by 1.3 percent, from $197,021,571 to $199,641,227.

The increases came despite a decline of 21 race days in the first quarter this year from 2005, from 1,175 in the first quarter of 2005 to 1,154 this year.

Over the past two years, handle on U.S. races had declined marginally, by 3.5 percent in 2005 and 0.6 percent in 2004.