Anne M. Eberhardt

Handle Still Down in U.S. as Purses Improve

Decline in wagering totals 3.47% compared to November 2010; purses increase 6.65%.

National pari-mutuel handle on Thoroughbred racing continued to decline in November, though the dip is not nearly as pronounced as it was a year ago at this time.

Meanwhile, purses nationally continued to rebound and race days -- individual racing programs at each track -- are on an upward trend.

Figures are from the "Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators" report released Dec. 4 by Equibase.

Handle for wagering on races in the United States during November 2011 totaled $874,386,107, a decline of 3.47% compared to last year's November total of $905,848,904. Last year, overall handle for November 2010 was off 7.78% from the corresponding month in 2009.

For the year to date, 2011 has produced wagering on U.S. races of $9,970,704,337. That's a 7.13% decline from the 2010 total of $10,736,200,808 through 11 months.

Purses jumped a healthy 6.65% in November over a year ago. Purses in the U.S. totaled $101,876,670 in November 2011 compared to $95,522,074 a year earlier. For the year, purses are up 1.68% in 2011 ($987,513,084 compared to $971,187,788).

The purse increase was aided in part by a 4.53% jump in the number of U.S. race days in November 2011. Race days totaled 392 compared to 375 a year ago. It was the second straight month that race days across the U.S. had shown an increase.

Purses for the first 11 months in 2010 were off by 6.20% from the corresponding period in 2009.

For the year, race days in 2011 are down 3.99%, or 4,953 compared to 5,159 in 2010.