By Bill Finley
According to Equibase figures, total wagering on U.S. races in September was $1,039,737,336, a 29.64% increase over 2019 numbers.
The handle for the GI Kentucky Derby day card at Churchill Downs fell dramatically this year. A total of $128.3 million was bet on the 14 races. In 2019, $250.9 million was wagered on the card. Nonetheless, the $128.3 million was the most bet on any racing program this year and was a major factor in the overall increase for September.
With the increase in numbers during September, total handle for the year is off just 2.86% from the numbers posted in 2019, when COVID-19 did not affect racing schedules.
There was more discouraging news when it came to purses. Because of the coronavirus, almost all betting is being done through ADWs, which contribute a lower percentage to purses than brick-and-mortar betting. Some tracks have also had to go several months without receiving contributions from casinos.
Purses were $110,251,841 in September, a 6.75% percent decline. For the year, they are down 29.61% , with $264.7 million less having been paid out this year when compared to 2019.
The lower purse total is also related to the reduction in racing days. Through September, there were 2,509 race cards held during the year. Through September 2019, that number was 3,515.
The average field size in September was 7.88, a modest increase. For the year, the field size has averaged 7.87 for a 6.53% increase.