11/04/2010 4:35PM

U.S race days, handle drop in October

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Race days in the United States plummeted for the second straight month in October when compared with October of last year, a decline that sent handle and purse figures south as well, according to figures released on Thursday by Equibase.

The number of race days held at U.S. tracks this October was 469, according to the figures, an 11.5 percent decline from the 530 race days held last year. Last month, race days declined at a similar rate, 12.5 percent, from 545 in September of last year to 477 in September of this year.

The contraction in the number of wagering opportunities had marked effects on handle and purses. In total, wagering on U.S. races in October was $870.3 million, down 6.7 percent compared with wagering of $933.1 million in October last year.

Purses distributed in U.S. races in October fell 8.5 percent, from $105.2 million last year to $96.3 million this year, according to the figures.

Race days have been falling this year as racetracks reconsider their racing schedules in response to horse shortages and a deteriorating fan base that has been weakened by the recession. The contraction will likely continue for some years because of declining foal crops.

Through the first 10 months of the year, race days have fallen 7.8 percent, from 5,190 through October of last year to 4,784. Handle is down 7.1 percent, from $10.58 billion to $9.83 billion; and purses are down 5.9 percent, from $931 million to $875.7 million. At the current rate of decline, handle will fall to its lowest level since 1996 at the end of the year.