For a few months I have spot checked parimutuel handle trends and found that there was great 2019 variation by racetrack. Now that all the data is available, the overall 2019 decline looks pretty substantial with June reflecting a whooping 7.2% drop nationwide.
Some of the decline is explainable in that there was no Triple Crown chase this year, after Justify helped drive additional handle in 2018. In addition, the terrible media coverage of equine fatalities also seems to have driven handle lower.
What I particularly found interesting was the variation by racetrack illustrated in the included table. For example, Churchill saw an over 17% increase despite June being one of the worst weather months in Louisville Kentucky history. (We have now experienced over 40 straight days of rain!)
There is one universal truth. The quality of the racing product (field size, full race cards and the underlying quality of horses) drives revenue in racing, just like product quality drives revenue in any business. Churchill had full cards, an average field size of 8.6 and very high quality horses competing in June.
Negative trends in general, and the inability of certain tracks or jurisdictions to drive quality into their racing products, may suggest continuing consolidation, contraction and declines in the industry.
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.