03/04/2009 12:00AM

Wagering continues decline in February

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Wagering on Thoroughbred races in the U.S. was down 11.6 percent in February compared with February 2008, reflecting the slumping economy and a continuing downward trend in handle.

While it must be noted that there was one additional Friday of racing in 2008 because of the leap year, the gross handle of $999,915,818 this year fell well short of the $1.13 billion handled during February 2008. The total number of racing days in February 2009 was 359, just four short of the 363 offered in February 2008.

Wagering in January was down 1.6 percent despite an 8 percent increase in racing days. For the first two months of 2009, year-to-date handle is just more than $2.04 billion, down nearly 7 percent.

Wagering on U.S. races has been in a steady decline for most of the last four years. In 2008, handle was down 7.2 percent from 2007, with much of the decline attributable to the way the worldwide economy went into a downward spiral during the last six months of 2008.