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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HRI Edited Release — The final thoroughbred racing economic indicators are out. Last year was a good one for industry stake holders with purses up an average 4.5% but not a good overall sign as betting handle slipped by 2%.

The takeaway is that tracks are suffering rank and file losses while purses, normally fueled by betting dollars, slipped. Meaning? Casino dole good; betting product not so much.

Another trend worth assessing is average field size, a metric that has decreased over decades but was flat in 2019, somewhat abating a slide and very likely attributable to the burgeoning number of turf races that, on balance, attract larger fields.

Below is a breakdown of the numbers, courtesy of Equibase:

Year-End 2019

Editor’s Note: For the second consecutive year, total wagering on U.S. races topped $11 billion. 

YTD 2019 vs. YTD 2018
IndicatorYTD 2019YTD 2018% Change
Wagering on U.S. Races*$11,038,790,395$11,263,943,823-2.00%
U.S. Purses$1,167,921,650$1,117,743,340+4.49%
U.S. Race Days4,4254,432-0.16%
U.S. Races36,20736,586-1.04%
U.S. Starts272,553279,774-2.58%
Average Field Size7.537.65-1.56%
Average Wagering Per Race Day$2,494,642$2,541,504-1.84%
Average Purses Per Race Day$263,937$252,198+4.65%
1st Half 2019 vs. 1st Half 2018
Indicator1st Half 20191st Half 2018% Change
Wagering on U.S. Races*$5,675,370,071$5,864,821,854-3.23%
U.S. Purses$544,003,882$515,570,620+5.51%
U.S. Race Days2,1042,081+1.11%
U.S. Races17,45717,396+0.35%
U.S. Starts130,239132,746-1.89%
Average Field Size7.467.63-2.23%
Average Wagering Per Race Day$2,697,419$2,818,271-4.29%
Average Purses Per Race Day$258,557$247,751+4.36%
2nd Half 2019 vs. 2nd Half 2018
Indicator2nd Half 20192nd Half 2018% Change
Wagering on U.S. Races*$5,363,420,324$5,399,121,969-0.66%
U.S. Purses$623,917,768$602,172,720+3.61%
U.S. Race Days2,3212,351-1.28%
U.S. Races18,75019,190-2.29%
U.S. Starts142,314147,028-3.21%
Average Field Size7.597.66-0.93%
Average Wagering Per Race Day$2,310,823$2,296,521+0.62%
Average Purses Per Race Day$268,814$256,135+4.95%
4th QTR 2019 vs. 4th QTR 2018
Indicator4th QTR 20194th QTR 2018% Change
Wagering on U.S. Races*$2,442,731,189$2,422,104,796+0.85%
U.S. Purses$274,052,371$268,546,738+2.05%
U.S. Race Days910936-2.78%
U.S. Races7,6537,933-3.53%
U.S. Starts61,57663,884-3.61%
Average Field Size8.058.05-0.09%
Average Wagering Per Race Day$2,684,320$2,587,719+3.73%
Average Purses Per Race Day$301,156$286,909+4.97%

* Includes worldwide commingled wagering on U.S. races.

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