Handle, Purses Down in First Quarter of 2005

Total handle on United States Thoroughbred racing in North America, as well as U.S. Thoroughbred purses, were down in the first quarter of 2005 compared with the first quarter in 2004, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase said.

The NTRA, in an April 8 release, said record rains in California and severe weather in the Midwest and Northeast impacted the figures. Handle also was down for the fourth quarter of 2004, compared with the fourth quarter of 2003.

Wagering on U.S. races was $3,314,341,688, down 6.03% from $3,532,767,011 in the first quarter of 2004. U.S. purses for the first quarter of this year were $202,425,864, down 2.43% from $207,465,310. Meanwhile, the number of race days--individual programs--was 1,175, down 1.84% from 1,197.

Officials cited business declines at Gulfstream Park, which is under reconstruction, and Santa Anita Park, which was hit by heavy rain through most of its meet. In addition, Northern California was impacted by rain, and some tracks in the Midwest and Northeast lost racing days due to weather.

"It appears that January and February were the culprits here," NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. said in a statement. "Wagering levels returned to near-normal levels and race days increased 1% in March. We'll be monitoring the numbers over the next few months to gain some additional perspective and look for any trends."

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