Anne M. Eberhardt

Mild February Aids Solid Handle Increase

Handle was up 7.60% and purses jumped 13.93%, according to Equibase.

Unseasonably warm weather in February no doubt contributed to a 7.60% increase in wagering on United States races.

And, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators provided by Equibase, pari-mutuel handle for the first two months of 2012 is up more than $50 million from the same period in 2011.

February wagering totaled $884,149,099, up from $821,676,865 for February 2011. Favorable weather in the North led to fewer cancellations; the number of U.S. race days—individual programs at each track—was 332 this February, up 6.41% from 312 the same month last year.

U.S. purses increased 13.93% in February to $70,992,753, up from $62,311,174.

Through the first two months of 2012, handle totaled $1,702,844,131, up 3.24% from $1,649,465,107 for January and February of 2011. Purses were up 8.26% (from $126,379,531 to $136,819,798), while race days were up 0.78% (from 642 to 647).

The handle figures include worldwide commingled handle on U.S. races only.

Though too soon to call it a trend, it appears the economic indicators have stabilized. In January 2012 total handle was down only 1.10% despite a 4.55% drop in race days. Purses held their own in January with a 2.75% gain.