Bonus-Fueled Purses Up Despite Handle Dip

Though pari-mutuel handle on Thoroughbred racing in the United States and Canada dropped slightly in the second quarter of 2004, purses increased 2.86%, according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase.

Total wagering came in at $4,110,567,732, down 0.8% from the second quarter of 2003, when it was $4,113,889,920. Purses, however, were up more than $9 million in the second quarter of 2004 compared with 2003.

Purses for the second quarter of this year totaled $292,902,564, up from $284,769,311. The NTRA confirmed July 20 that the purse amount includes the $5-million Oaklawn Centennial bonus won by Roy and Patricia Chapman's Smarty Jones for his victories in the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby (gr. II), and Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

The bonus is considered part of the colt's purse earnings. But if the bonus were subtracted from the second-quarter purse figure, the total would be $287,902,564, up a little more than 1% from the second quarter of 2003.

"We're encouraged by the year-to-date figures, which show continued growth in handle and a 1.23% increase in purses despite an overall drop of more than 2% in the number of racing days," NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said in a release.

The number of racing days, or total programs, was 1,834 for this year's second quarter, down from 1,862 last year.

The NTRA Wagering Systems Task Force is preparing a report that was spurred by previous quarterly declines in purses despite gains in handle. It is scheduled to be released Aug. 15 at The Jockey Club Round Table.