Statistics: Handle drops 2%, purses increase 4.5% in 2019

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Jan. 6, 2020

Total commingled pari-mutuel handle on United States Thoroughbred races in 2019 was down 2% from 2018, while purses increased 4.49% with 379 fewer races from 2018 according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators released by Equibase Jan. 6.

After a lengthy period of declines, 2019 marked the second consecutive year handle was above the $11 billion mark. It fell under $11 billion in 2011; the peak year was 2003 when total Thoroughbred wagering was $15.18 billion.

Handle for the 12-month period was reported at $11,038,790,395, down from $11,263,943,823 for 2018. Purses increased to $1,167,921,650 from $1,117,743,340, according to the statistics. The number of Thoroughbred starts in 2019 dropped 7,221 (2.58%) to 272,553 from 279,774 the previous year.

Average field size of 7.53 was down 1.56% from 7.65 in 2018. The number of races fell 1.04% to 36,207 from 36,586.

Handle per race averaged $304,880, a drop of 0.97% from $307,875 in 2018. The average purse per race in 2019 was $32,256, up 5.58% from $30,551 in 2018.

For the fourth quarter of 2019 versus the same period the previous year, total wagering on Thoroughbred races was up 0.85% to $2,442,731,189 versus $2,422,104,796. Purses for the fourth quarter increased 2.05% to $274,052,371 from $268,546,738. Average field size was even at 8.05.