Handle and purses increase; races, number of starters decline in 2018

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Jan. 4, 2019

Despite declines in race days, races and starters, commingled pari-mutuel handle on United States Thoroughbred races in 2018 increased 3.30% from 2017, while purses rose 3.52%, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators released by Equibase Jan. 4.

Total wagering of $11,265,519,563 marked the first time since 2010 the figure topped $11 million, according to Equibase statistics. It was the largest percentage increase since 2000, when total handle topped $14.32 million. The 2017 number was $10,906,103,251.

U.S. purses last year were reported at $1,117,727,943 versus $1,079,738,209. It’s the highest number since 2013.

Race days totaled 4,432 in 2018, down 3.08% from 4,573 in 2017. The number of races came in at 36,586, 2.77% lower than 37,628 the year before, while starts dropped 3.77% to 279,774 from 290,745, according to the stats.

Average field size fell 1.03% to 7.65 from 7.73.

Based on the stats, average handle per race was $307,918, up 6.23% from $289,840 in 2017. Average purse per race was $30,550, up 6.46% from $28,695 the previous year.

For December, total wagering was up 4.43% to $777,535,111 from $744,530,000 for the same month in 2017. Purse increased 8.74 to $70,029,061 from $64,401,456.