(Photo courtesy of the Maryland Jockey Club.)

Staff report

Thoroughbred racing’s national economic indicators pointed solidly upwards in February, according to data provided by Equibase.

Purses and wagering both rose in February 2016 versus the same month a year ago, and two months into the year, total wagering is up more than four percent, to over $1.6 billion.

The wagering data covers wagering, including worldwide commingled handle, on United States races.


In February, bettors placed more than $812 million worth of wagers on US races, a 6.4 percent jump from wagering a year ago.  The growth in wagering, which also was up in January, helped pump more money into purses.  Purses rose nearly 2.4 percent, to more than $62 million even though the number of live race days and live races both declined.

The declining number of races — off more than four percent through two months versus a year ago — has helped contribute to an increase in the number of starters per race.  Through two months, US field size has averaged nearly 8.4 horses, up from 8.2 a year ago.  Larger fields generally lead to more robust wagering, and that has seemed to be the case thus far this year.  Average wagering per race is up nearly nine percent from a year ago, and wagering per race day is up more than 11.5 percent.

Racing leaders hope the data portends a reversal of the decade-long slide in wagering.  While total betting reached more than $15 billion each year during 2002-2004, it has fallen substantially since and been below $11 billion in each of the last five years.  While wagering was up modestly in 2015 versus 2014, the most year in which the industry saw handle growth of more than 1.5 percent was 2002, according to the Jockey Club.


YTD 2016
YTD 2015
Pct. change
Race Days545583-6.52%
Wagering/race day$3,015,405.07$2,703,646.1811.53%

Source: Equibase.