Wagering on Thoroughbred races at U.S. tracks was up 10.3 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of last year, according to figures released by Equibase on Monday, while average handle per race in the quarter increased 8.8 percent.The first&#45;quarter figures are complicated by the onset of coronavirus lockdowns put in place in mid&#45;March of last year that resulted in dozens of tracks closing their doors. Handle in March of this year, for example, was up more than $234 million, or 32 percent, with the total number of races held during March this year up 43.4 percent, from 1,787 in the pandemic&#45;stressed March of last year to 2,563 this year.Still, wagering on U.S. races has remained robust since the pandemic began, with gross wagering holding strong and average handle numbers increasing significantly. Throughout last year, many tracks posted record average handle per race as bettors spread their money on the available races.Total wagering in the quarter was $2.766 billion, compared to $2.508 billion, according to the figures. Total purses distributed rose 4.8 percent, to $214 million. Average handle per race was $412,727, compared to $379,161 in the first quarter last year.Comparisons for the remainder of the year will remain fraught due to the incredible number of variables that have changed since the pandemic began last spring. Racing has resumed on all major circuits, and restrictions on attendance have begun to be loosened. Last weekend, Santa Anita Park and Keeneland Racecourse both allowed limited general admission, through pre&#45;sold tickets.Field size in the quarter dipped marginally, from 7.86 horses per race in the first quarter of 2020 to 7.79 horses per race. In March, the decline was larger, dropping from 7.79 horses per race last year to 7.59 this year.Even though the number of races increased during the quarter compared to last year, the number of race days fell, in large part due to a rash of cancellations due to a winter storm in February. The total number of race days fell from 793 last year to 761 this year.