Key contributors to the economic health of the horse racing enterprise in the United States are the summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga Race Course, tracks located on opposite coasts.  Betting at their recently completed meets broke existing records.

In 31 days of racing in 2021, Del Mar took in total handle of $569.98 million.  By comparison, in 2020, aggregate handle for 27 days was $$467.6 million.  Average daily handle for 2021 was $18.38 million compared to $17.3 million in 2020. The card featuring the Pacific Classic set an all-time wagering high for the day of $36 million.

At the 40-day meet at Saratoga, total handle was $815.51 million.  This represented a 15.6% increase over the previous record of $705.34 million in 2019.  Average daily handle in 2021 was $20.39 million.  Saratoga had paid attendance of over one million patrons.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Colonial Downs handled wagering over 21 days of $46.87 million or $2.23 million per day.  This was a 91% increase from the 2019 meet.

Year-to-date, betting on U. S. horse races is up 17.51% over 2020 and 10.18% over 2019.

It was fortunate that the popular gatherings at Del Mar and Saratoga were able to be completed without fan attendance being limited or shut down altogether.  In this 2021 Labor-Day week, a new wave of the Delta variant of Covid-19 infections is surging and slowing economic activity.  Johns Hopkins reports that Covid cases are up 300% compared to this time last year. Major companies are delaying a return to the office for employees until early 2022, business travel is stalling, restaurant chains are closing some in-door dining facilities, and many hospitals are overcrowded. 

Whether sporting events like college and NFL football and the Breeders’ Cup will be able to accommodate full houses through the mid-to-late fall is an open question.

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