Racing remains in “robust health” according to the British Horseracing Board’s annual report, despite a series of legal setbacks last year.
Racing’s rulers suffered defeats to bookmakers William Hill over data rights in July and to At The Races over pre-race data last month, plus the termination of agreements with Irish bookmakers in November.
Total prize money, at £99.3m (€14.5m), fell just short of 2004’s landmark of over £100m (€146.4m), but remained more than the £94m (€137.6m) of 2003 and the £84.2m (€123.2m) three years ago.
Raceday attendances totalled just uner six million which, although fractionally down on 2004’s record, were still the third-highest ever achieved.
The BHB described these figures as “notable achievements given the unavoidable spending cuts during 2005 – which had put over £7m (€10.2m) directly into prize money in 2004 – and the temporary closure of Ascot, which had attracted over half a million racegoers the year before last.”
Chief executive Greg Nichols said: “Twelve months ago I said that British racing was well placed to meet the challenges ahead, and so it has proved.
“Despite well-documented legal setbacks in 2005, and their knock-on financial effects, the sport remains a success story, and in robust health.
“British Racing has never been more popular. It is second only to football in spectator numbers and television viewers and credit for the continued progress is due to all those who participate in and contribute to the sport.
“There are numerous reasons to believe we can go on to greater success in 2006.
“We have record levels of investment in the sport, both in terms of racehorse owners and our racecourses.
"All those with a passion for racing cannot wait for Ascot’s reopening later this year, and this year will also see a new all-weather track launched at Kempton Park, and also Great Leighs, the first course in Britain for over 75 years, open for business.”
The BHB reported a record 14,577 horses in training as well as marginal increases in owners with a horse in training, the number of meetings, races run and runners.