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Thursday, January 8, 2004


Attendances up 8.5%, Betting up 14%

2003 was a record year for Irish racecourses with total attendances of just under 1.4million. Highlights of the year were the Galway Festival at 192,000, Listowel at 93,000, Punchestown at 69,000 and the Leopardstown Christmas Festival at 61,000. Growth was evident across all key industry areas:

Total Fixtures:
Up 9% from 279 to 303

Number of races:
Up 8.6% from 1,994 to 2,166

Total Prize money:
Up 9% from 46.2m to 50.4m

Total number of runners:
Up 2.2% from 28,268 to 28,902

Total Betting from On-Course:
Up 14% from 208.4m to 237.0m

Total Tote Betting:
Up 14.1% from 38.8m to 44.3m

Total Sponsorship:
Up 9% from 6.5m to 7.1m

Number of horses in training:
Up 3.7% from 5,469 to 5,672

New Owner registrations:
Up 4% from 817 to 850

Up 8.4% from 1,286,914 to 1,395,833

Commenting on the figures, HRI's Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh stated: "2003 was a good year due to the success of additional fixtures, competitive racing and generally good weather, particularly for our major events. We improved the fixture list by providing more racing at times and venues which suited racegoers and promoted racing throughout the year with TV, cinema, radio and press advertising. We reached new audiences with our "Go Racing" programme on TV3 and a strong racing and general media presence."

The quality of Irish racing remains strong both at home and abroad. Nine of the ten Group 1 races on the Flat in Ireland were kept at home this year, including a record-breaking first Classic success for 84 year-old Paddy Mullins, with Vintage Tipple in the Oaks, who then completed a tremendous big race double when Nearly A Moose won the Hewlett Packard Galway Plate in late July. The highlight of the National Hunt season was a record-breaking Punchestown Festival and the year ended with a very successful Festival in Leopardstown featuring the clash of Best Mate and Beef or Salmon in the Ericsson Chase.

Once again, Irish trained, owned, bred and ridden horses have had international success in 2003, winning a total of 17 Group/Graded races in the UK including 10 Group 1 races. The main highlights were: Ireland's six Cheltenham Festival winners; Monty's Pass providing a third Irish success in five years in Aintree's Martell Grand National; Refuse to Bend winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket; Hawk Wing's spectacular Lockinge Stakes success; Nobody Told Me in the French Champion Hurdle; Alamshar and Johnny Murtagh in the King George; Brian Boru and Jamie Spencer in the Doncaster St Leger and High Chapparal in the Breeders Cup.

Betting figures for the period were buoyant, with total on-course betting up 14% to 237m. Tote betting grew in line with the overall increase, at 44.3m, up 14.1%. Prizemoney grew by 9% to 50.4m, National Hunt prizemoney increased by 11% and Flat prizemoney by 7%. Sponsors contributed 7.1m, an increase of 9% on last year.

Looking forward to 2004, Brian Kavanagh commented:"The growth of race sponsorship in 2003 is perhaps the best indicator of future prospects for the industry. We expect continuing support from existing sponsors and we look forward to welcoming some exciting newcomers in the year ahead. Given an encouraging start to the year, the quality of horses in training and the implementation of further racecourse capital development plans we can look forward to continuing growth across all of racing's key performance indicators this year."

Reflecting on the tragedies which overshadowed the racing year, Brian Kavanagh commented: "Racing lost three of its finest young jockeys in 2003. Kieran Kelly, Sean Cleary and Timmy Houlihan all graced the sport with their presence and will be remembered wherever the racing community gathers in the future."

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