by Pat McKenna
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced that its 2020 race meets conducted at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course generated all-sources handle of more than $1.8 billion.
Total handle over the 157 race days contested in 2020 was $1,813,935,091 for an average daily handle of $11,553,727, a 19 percent increase over 2019. Average field size for the 1,507 races completed in 2020 was 7.82, a six percent increase over 2019.
Since the resumption of live racing on June 3 through the end of 2020, all-sources handle totaled $1,586,344,888, a $7,059,402 increase over the same period in 2019. Average daily handle from June 3 through the end of 2020 was $13,443,601, marking a 16 percent increase over the same period in 2019.
Despite the loss of 43 race days to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in 27 percent fewer race days and 25 percent fewer races than in 2019, all-sources handle declined year-over-year by just 14 percent compared to the $2,108,126,369 generated in 2019.
At the outset of the pandemic, NYRA voluntarily suspended live racing operations on March 19 to devote all resources, energy and attention to maintaining the health and welfare of the backstretch community. Live racing resumed June 3 when NYRA opened the Belmont Park spring/summer meet to mark the return of professional sports in New York. Since June 3, all NYRA tracks have been operated without spectators and with only a limited number of essential personnel, horsemen and owners on-site.
The abbreviated 25-day Belmont spring/summer meet generated $15,466,198 in average daily handle from all sources, a 42 percent increase over the 2019 spring/summer meet. Despite running 23 fewer days than in 2019, a 48 percent decrease, all sources handle during the spring/summer meet declined by just 26 percent for a total of $386,654,955.
The June 20 Belmont Stakes Day card, which featured 12 races and six graded stakes, highlighted by Tiz the Law’s victory in the 152nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, generated all sources handle of $67,753,336.
NYRA held its 2020 summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course as scheduled and without interruption. All-sources handle for the 2020 summer meet totaled $702,535,468 compared to $705,343,949 wagered from all sources on Saratoga in 2019. Average daily handle for the 40-day meet was $17,563,387.
The 2020 fall meet at Belmont Park generated $9,923,813 in average daily handle from all sources, marking a 33.6 percent increase over the 2019 fall meet.
Despite running 10 fewer days than in 2019, the all sources handle for the Belmont fall meet totaled $267,942,961, just 2.5 percent lower than in 2019. Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NYRA adjusted the fall schedule by adding a one-week break following the conclusion of the summer meet at Saratoga. Consequently, the 2020 fall meet was contested over 27 days compared to 37 days in 2019, a 27 percent decrease in race dates.
The recently concluded Big A fall meet, which ran from November 6 through December 6, generated $9,261,276 in average daily handle from all sources for a 12.8 percent increase over 2019. Conducted over 18 race days, the Aqueduct fall meet generated all sources handle of $166,702,976. The 2019 fall meet, which was conducted over 25 race days, generated all sources handle of $205,249,710. A total of 175 races were run during the Aqueduct fall meet in 2020, equating to 58 fewer than the number of races run in 2019.
NYRA conducted a total of 127 stakes races in 2020, not including New York-bred and NYSSS races, accounting for 25 percent of all stakes run in the United States. Of the 127 stakes, 95 were of the graded variety, representing 25 percent of all graded stakes run in the United States. NYRA hosted 33 Grade 1 stakes in 2020, or 35 percent of all Grade 1 races run in the United States. Due to the myriad impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reorganization of the stakes calendar, 36 stakes races scheduled for 2020 were not run, with 17 of them graded.