01/09/2003 12:00AM

U.S. race handle up again


Total handle on U.S. Thoroughbred racing increased 3 percent to $15.1 billion in 2002, according to statistics compiled by Equibase, the racing industry's official record-keeper. It was the ninth annual increase in a row for handle on Thoroughbred racing. Last year, betting was $14.6 billion.

Total purses also rose, but at a much weaker rate than handle. Purses were up 0.6 percent in 2002 to $1.074 billion, compared with $1.067 billion in 2001.

Equibase said that the number of race days in 2002 was down 33 days, from 6,578 in 2001 to 6,545, which may have had an impact on the purse total. A total of 28 days were canceled in December 2002 because of adverse weather.