Friday, July 24, 2009Contact: Tamarisk Doyle
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Tough times for Irish racing

Horse Racing Ireland released half year figures for 2009 today, which reveal further contractions in Irish racing’s key performance indicators. With fixtures declining by 4% and races by 5%, average attendances have fallen by 14%, while the total attendance is down 17% from the start of the year. There has been a similar fall in betting turnover, with the Tote down 17% and on-course bookmakers down 22%. Trainers are seeing a decline in horse numbers which are down 4%, with individual runners down by 6% and total runners down by 8%. Prize money fell by €3.9m (14%), while commercial sponsorship declined by 25%.

Whilst the average attendance has declined by 14% and total attendance by 17% to 498,308, there are still some positives to take out of a number of the key meetings. Attendances at several major festivals held up well, with Easter at Fairyhouse up 7.5% and at Cork up 14%. 95,000 racegoers attended the Punchestown Festival over the five days and, while corporate bookings were reduced by 15,000, the number of non-corporate attendees increased by 5,000. The later start times also resulted in an increased viewership on RTE for the first three days of the festival with a rise of 52% on the previous year.

On the racetrack, the on-going investment in the industry continues to pay dividends, with continued high profile international successes. In the National Hunt arena the highlight of the year was the nine Irish winners at the Cheltenham Festival. Along with the Irish trained winners, there were thirteen Irish bred winners (including 6 Grade 1's). Ruby Walsh was crowned Leading Cheltenham Festival jockey yet again with a record seven festival winners and the top five spots in the jockeys’ table were held by Irish riders, further emphasizing the international dominance of Irish athletes, both human and equine, in the sport.

On the Flat, Sea The Stars is currently the leading Flat horse in the world, having completed a remarkable treble by wining the English Guineas, Derby and Eclipse Stakes for Michael Kinane and John Oxx. The redoubtable Yeats deservedly earned his place in the history books by winning his fourth consecutive Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, whilst HRI’s Flat Ambassador Johnny Murtagh was crowned leading jockey at the meeting.

Commenting on the figures, Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) 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”.

2009 6 Month Key Figures

Total Fixtures

Total Races

Total Prizemoney

Total Sponsorship

Total Runners

Total Eliminations

Total Horses in Training

Total Individual Runners

Total Bookmaker Betting

Total Tote Betting

Total Attendance

Avg Attendance