Attendance figures boost for HRI

HORSE Racing Ireland yesterday issued the industry figures for the six months to June 30, 2010, which revealed positive signs in relation to racecourse attendances, but a continuing decline in the number of horses currently in training.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of HRI, said: “The most pleasing aspect of 2010 to date has been the recovery in attendances.

“Whilst they were down by 13,582 (an average of 12%) for the first three months of the year, the second quarter saw a return to growth with total crowds up by 11,579 (or an average of 3%).

“In the challenging economic environment, this reflects great credit on the efforts of racecourses to offer value for money packages and added entertainment.

“Initiatives, such as Limerick’s Student Day, the continuing Bulmers Summer Evening Series at Leopardstown and the Curragh’s Friday music evenings have produced impressive results, while the major festivals, such as Fairyhouse and Cork at Easter, Punchestown and the Derby meeting have all performed well.

“The Tote’s turnover is also close to last year’s levels (down 3% overall), although on-course Bookmaker betting (down 14%) remains under pressure.’

In the first six months a total of 9,597 horses were returned in training, a drop of 2%. Of these 5,691 made it to the track, representing a total 14,219 runners in the period.

Continued Kavanagh: “With prize money down by a further 7% to date this year, a fall in entries (down 17%) and runners (down 5%) was to be expected. However, the most worrying trend is an accelerating decline in the number of horses in training.

“From January to March the figure was on a par with last year, but each month since has seen a greater decline, with the numbers down 5% in April, 7% in May and 10% at the end of June.

“A significant reduction in horse numbers can, regrettably, only mean a further decline in employment levels throughout the industry. This reflects an industry under continuing pressure, which urgently requires a long-term funding solution to preserve vital rural jobs.’

In conclusion, Kavanagh said: “The highlight of the first six months of 2010 was the commitment by An Taoiseach (Brian Cowen) to put in place a long-term and secure funding system and we are actively working with Government to this.”

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