Tuesday, January 09, 2007Contact: Brian Kavanagh, HRI Chief Executive
045 842800
Irish Racing achieves all time racing attendance record

Continued growth in attendance, betting and prize-money were the hallmarks of Irish racing's most successful year ever, it was announced today, with the release of the 2006 racing statistics by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).

Attendances at Irish Racecourses reached an all-time high of 1.45m, surpassing the previous record of 1.43m set in 2005. The Festival meetings, particularly at Punchestown and Galway, continued to exceed all expectations while the Curragh recorded a record-breaking Derby weekend and drew 10,000 racegoers to the inaugural Shelbourne Hotel Goffs Million meeting. Many regional tracks such as Ballinrobe, Bellewstown, Killarney and Wexford enjoyed buoyant demand, contributing to the growth of 17,000 attendances over the 2005 figures. The total number of fixtures (including Northern Ireland) was 319 compared to 313 last year.

Total on-course betting saw dramatic growth, up 10.6% to €261.9m. Bookmaker betting on-course rose from €176.1m to €197.3m, up 12%, the Tote grew by 0.6% to €49.6 million and on-course SP shops grew by 33% to reach €15m.

Prize-money grew by 5% to reach €55m, up from €52.3m, and race sponsorship continued the positive growth pattern of recent years increasing by 2.5% to €8.1m. The total value of bloodstock sales at public auction grew by 30% to €189.4m.

Irish-trained horses managed to surpass the 2005 total of nine Cheltenham victories with a historic ten, including once again the Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle and the Champion Chase and went on to add the Aintree Grand National to the tally. On the Flat, Irish-trained horses kept 9 of the 12 domestic Group One races at home. Two English Classics fell to Aidan O Brien - George Washington taking the English 2000 Guineas in scintillating style and Alexandrova completing the English and Irish Oaks double - part of the overall Irish tally of seven English Group One races. Four Group ones in France, including the Prix Marcel Boussac and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc day, cemented racing's reputation as Ireland's most consistently successful international sport.

Commenting on the figures, HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said: ''The record attendance figure is particularly welcome as we knew, heading into 2006, that we would have to contend with the World Cup and the Ryder Cup. The elements conspired to blow us off course with three particularly bad periods: a very wet spring which saw 15 meetings cancelled, September's storm which reversed the recent growth of Listowel's ever-popular Festival and of course Christmas, which gave Leopardstown, Limerick, Tramore and Punchestown some difficult days. The numbers achieved show the strong appeal of the sport across all regions. The main Festivals continue to go from strength to strength, with Punchestown, in particular, achieving a record 85,000 racegoers, up 10% on 2005.

Looking forward to 2007, Brian Kavanagh stated: “2007 will see significant development of racecourse facilities, particularly with the flagship projects at the Curragh and Galway now underway. Dundalk will re-open in August, giving us Ireland's first all-weather floodlit track. It will stage 12 meetings in 2006 rising to 25 in subsequent years. The security of funding which has been ensured for Irish racing through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act has given HRI the basis for long-term planning, and the ability to deliver facilities which will add greatly to the sporting and social infrastructure of the country. In 2007 we will reach a new record level of prize-money with the total expected to rise from €55.1m this year to €58.6m.

Enhanced prize-money has been the foundation for the unprecedented success of Irish trained horses in the modern era. The minimum value of a race in Ireland is now €8,500 which helps ensure that the best horses stay in training in Ireland providing employment and preserving skills throughout the regions.”

Summary of Irish Thoroughbred Racing Industry Statistics, Year ended 31st December 2006

  • Total Fixtures: (incl. N.I.) Up 2% from 313 to 319
  • Total Fixtures, R.O.I. only Up 2% from 291 to 297
  • Point to Point Fixtures: Down 4.6% from 107 to 102
  • Number Of Races: Up 1.3% from 2,241 to 2,270
  • Total Prize Money (Incl Point to Point): Up 5.1% from €52.3m to €55m
    >>>National Hunt: Up 5% from €26.9m to €28.2
    >>>Flat: Up 5.5% from €25.4m to €26.8
  • Total Number Of Runners: Up 0.17% from 31,532 to 31,588
  • Total Betting from On-Course: (Tote, On-course Bookmakers & On-Course SP Shops) Up 10.6% from €236.7m to €261.9m
    >>>Tote Betting: Up 0.6% from €49.3m to €49.6m
    >>>On-Course Bookmakers: Up 12% from €176.1m to €197.3
    >>>On-Course SP Shops: Up 33% from €11.3 to €15m
  • Total Sponsorship: Up 2.5% from €7.9m to €8.1m
  • Total Number of Horses in Training: Up 2.1% from 10,875 to 11,109
  • Attendances: Up 1.2% from 1,430,122 to 1,447,245
  • Bloodstock Sales at Public Auction Up 30% from €145.6m to €189.4m