Handle Down, Purses Up in Second Quarter

Handle decreased but purses increased, according to the NTRA and Equibase.

Pari-mutuel handle took a hit but purses gained a bit in the second quarter of 2008, according to the "Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators" for United States and Canadian pari-mutuel wagering on U.S. Thoroughbred racing.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase released the figures July 11. During the second quarter of 2008, pari-mutuel handle decreased 4.15% to $3,837,687,728 compared with $4,003,960,415 during the same period in 2007. Total purses of $317,235,241 increased 3.6% from $306,210,835 during the same period last year.

Race days--the number of individual programs at each track--were 1,732, down 0.46% from 1,740 last year.

For the six months that ended June 30, wagering was down 3.66% compared with 2007 levels, purses were up 1.44%, and race days were off by 0.66%.

The second quarter features the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), which fuels Thoroughbred racing's biggest handle day each year. Purses increased despite reductions in prize money of 30% and 20% at Calder Race Course and Churchill Downs, respectively, because of a conflict over advance deposit wagering revenue.

"Our industry is in the midst of a challenging period with discretionary entertainment dollars tighter than they have been for several years," Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the NTRA, said in a statement. "Still, we are pleased that purse levels are more than holding their own, and we look forward to a summer season that features some highly anticipated meetings such as Saratoga and Del Mar."