By Bill Finley
Betting on U.S. horse racing had its worst month so far this year in August as handle fell by $87,216,418 when compared to August 2022 figures. The decline was 7.3%, the sharpest drop in a month since December 2022.
A total of $1,107,146,014 was bet on the sport during this August, while the 2022 handle figure was $1,194,362,432. In month-over-month figures, it was the sharpest drop since December when handle fell by 7.52%.
While the Saratoga meet spills over in to July and September, the majority of it is run in August. That handle fell so sharply, by 9.0%, during the meet at Saratoga, no doubt impacted the national figures. While national handle was off by $87 million in August, handle for the Saratoga meet alone fell by $78,982,675.
The monthly Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators report issued each month by Equibase continues to offer bad news when it comes to the handle front. Through August, handle is off 4.09% for the year. It has also fallen for six straight months after posting a slight increase in March.
As is often the case when the monthly reports come out, there was good news on the purse front. While the total amount of purse money paid out was virtually identical to August, 2022 numbers, the average available purses per race day figure was $324,561, a 12.62% increase from last year. For the year, $819,846,264 in purses have been paid out. In the category of average available purses per race day, that number has risen by 10%.
Average field size has actually shown a slight increase this year, going from 7.18 starters per race to 7.30.