April was another challenging month for the Thoroughbred industry, as its economic indicators were off versus 2013, according to Equibase data provided by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Overall, U.S. tracks carded 355 days of live racing in April 2014, a decline of 6.5 percent from last year’s 380 April cards.  That led to a similar — though slightly lesser — decline in wagering.  Purses, typically a lagging indicator, fell by 2.5 percent.

On the positive side, while the gross numbers, driven by the reduction in live days, fell, per-card averages actually were flat or grew in April ’14 compared with a year ago.  The average card handled nearly $2.3 million, essentially the same as a year ago (actually, a 0.55 percent increase).  And average April purses grew by nearly four percent, to more than $220,000 per card.

For the year to date, the story is essentially similar.  Gross handle is off about three percent so far in 2014 versus 2013, driven in part by a two percent reduction in the number of days run.  On a per-card basis, that amounts to a one percent decline in handle.  Meanwhile, purses, essentially unchanged on a per-card basis, are down a bit overall.

Locally, the brief Atlantic City meet — reduced to just five days this year versus the scheduled six when rains wiped away the final card — saw strong gains in per-card handle, though, with one fewer day, gross handle fell, according to The Blood-Horse (here).  The track’s average daily handle grew to more than $800,000, an increase of over 11 percent.  Average daily purses fell from about $129,500 to $112,600 for the track’s six-race cards.

The numbers include worldwide commingled wagering on U.S. races.


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