Prizemoney, attendances and betting turnover down as recession bites

HORSE Racing Ireland yesterday announced 6-month figures, which emphasise what a difficult period it has been for Irish racing.

Prizemoney was down by 14% and attendances to the tune of 17%. The Tote was also down by 17% and bookmaker betting 22%.

Fixtures declined by 4% and races 5%. Trainers are seeing a decline in horse numbers, which are down 4%, with total runners down by 8%. Prize money fell by €3.9m (14%), while commercial sponsorship declined by 25%.

According to HRI, however, there are still some positives to be taken out of a number of the key meetings. Attendances at several major Festivals held up well, with Easter at Fairyhouse up 7.5% and by 14% at Cork.

The Punchestown Festival attracted 95,000 over the five days, although corporate bookings were reduced by 15,000.

Clearly then there will now be huge interest in the figures returned by Galway next week.

Ballybrit has long defied logic, repeatedly setting extraordinary records both for betting and attendances.

Whether Galway can buck the national trend, however, remains to be seen.

Commenting on the figures, Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive, Horse Racing Ireland, said: “The first six months have, not surprisingly, proved to be very challenging, with Irish racing not immune from the effects of the economic slowdown.

“All our figures are down, but we must see them in context. Racing is coming from a very high bar, having achieved record figures in recent times and 2008 saw a contraction in the Irish horse racing industry for the first time in more than fifteen years.

“With rising unemployment and continuing weak consumer confidence in so many markets, it is understandable that attendances at events, including race meetings, are going to be affected.

“Racing will have to rise to the challenge and offer better value for our customers, with competitive pricing, increased offers and more incentives to reward our loyal racegoers.”

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