Handle Up, Purses Down During First Quarter

Total North American handle during the first quarter of the year was up slightly from 2003 despite 45 fewer racing days, but once again purses did not keep pace, according to statistics released Friday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase.

Wagering totaled $3,690,586,800 during the first quarter of the year, a 0.67% increase from last year's first quarter total of $3,535,728,707. Total purse money distributed dropped 1% to $206,731,875 from $208,841,288.

"The fact that handle increased with a four percent decline in racing days is positive," said NTRA commissioner Tim Smith. "However, the continuation of the 'handle up, purses down' phenomenon, which we first saw last year, remains a significant concern."

Smith noted the NTRA Wagering Systems Task Force is currently conducting "an intensive review of recent wagering data, trend, and other pertinent facts" to determine what factors may be contributing to the purse level declines."