Anne M. Eberhardt

August Not Kind to U.S. Handle and Purses

Pari-mutuel handle dropped 12.3%, while purses were down 7.7% with 6.5% fewer days.

After a solid rebound in July, pari-mutuel handle and purses declined substantially in August, according to the latest Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators.

Wagering on United State races in August totaled $982,144,867, down 12.3% from $1,119,891,052 in August 2010, Equibase reported. U.S. purses totaled $96,466,461, down 7.7% from $104,558,961 last August.

The number of race days—individual programs at each track—declined 6.5% to 527 from 564.

August is traditionally a strong month given the premier meets at Saratoga in New York and Del Mar in California.

In July 2011, handle was down only 2.8% from July 2010, while purses increased 1.1% from the previous year even with 6.6% fewer race days.

Through the first eight months of 2011, wagering on U.S. races stood at $7,507,435,956, down 7.7% from $8,133,578,475. Purses of $689,432,508, however, were down only 0.20% from $690,811,852 and have a chance to finish in the "black" this year.

With handle down more than $620 million with only four months to go, it appears 2011 will mark another year of wagering decline. The number of U.S. race days through August 2011 as 3,596, down 6.3% from 3,838 for the same period last year.

For comparative purposes, about $2.56 million in handle was lost in each of the 242 fewer race days this year.