Horse Racing Ireland have reported a significant increse in attendances and betting for the first six months of this year.

The 45,000 people who attended the three day Budweiser Irish Derby festival this year, contributed to a strong performance by Irish racing in the first six months of 2004.

Figures released by Horse Racing Ireland showed gains across
all main areas. The key highlights were as follows: (Comparable to same period in 2003)

Total Attendance 565,982 - up 23,023 – 4.2%

Total Tote Betting €20.2 million Up €2.2  – 12%

Total Sponsorship €3.4m up €273,326– 9%

Total Bookmaker Betting €84.7 million (On Course) Up €4.3m- 5%

Total Fixtures 133 (Excluding N.Ireland) up 10 – 8.1%

Total number of races 1,029 up 79 – 8%

Total runners 13,746 up 281 – 2%

Total Prize Money €23.9m up - €1.9m - 9%

In addition, total off-course betting in the period exceeded €1 billion, an increase of over €196m, or 22% on the corresponding period in 2003.

Commenting on the figures, Horse Racing Ireland’s Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, said:-  "The figures are extremely encouraging, and show that 2004 is likely to be another successful year for Irish racing. 

"While attendance figures are on target, they were affected by a difficult month of June which saw a number of meetings hit by wet weather and clashes with major events such as the GAA Provincial Championships and the Euro 2004 Soccer Championships. 

"Up to the end of May attendances were actually 11% ahead of last year’s attendances and we expect that level of demand to continue in the second half of the year. The extra fixtures included in 2004 have resulted in more choice for the racegoer, and more opportunities for owners and horses to compete."

Mid-June saw the return of Irish racing to TV screens following the launch of the new At the Races (ATR) channel.  Under the terms of this new deal between HRI and the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR), ATR will cover at least one fixture per day for each day that there is racing in Ireland (a minimum of 250 Irish race meetings per year).  

Filed by James McMahon