The British Horseracing Board reported record prize money of more than £104 million was offered in British races during 2006, marking only the second time that the £100-million mark has been exceeded.
Prize money that horses competed for in 2006 amounted to £104,058,476, a 4.8% increase on the previous year and was above the previous record of £101,309,953 seen in 2004.
BHB acting chief executive Chris Brand commented: "A new prize money record is something for the whole of British racing to take credit for and be proud of. We are continuing to see the benefits of a strategically expanded and reformed fixture list."
The total annual prize money in Britain has increased by 24% over the last five years, thanks in part to a large increase in fixtures, which in 2006 resulted in a record 1,332 fixtures (up from 1,300 in 2005) being staged at 59 racecourses in England, Scotland and Wales.
According to BHB figures, a record 8,934 races were contested by a new high of 19,178 individual runners (who ran a total of 94,610 times) throughout the year, with the result that owners’ contributions to the overall prize money kitty through entry fees exceeded £12 million, an increase of 3.2% over the previous year.
Brand applauded the efforts of racecourses, which increased their contributions to the record total by 8.4% to £27.27 million: "Special mention should go to those racecourses who made increased executive and sponsorship contributions in 2006."
The BHB’s Development Fund, created by money raised from the sport’s first auction of fixtures in June, 2005, provided £712,000, while £225,000 was awarded through the "Order Of Merit" incentive bonuses..
A fall in Levy Board income in 2006 did not affect its status as British horseracing’s biggest prize money contributor, with funds of over £62 million made available, representing a 2.9% rise over 2005.
The levy provided £707,544 to the owners’ premium scheme, which it will no longer support, as well as £920,000 to the divided-race fund.
The Levy Board’s net prize money contribution is due to fall by 13.4% in 2007 and Brand warned of the danger of complacency.
He said: "Entering 2007, we will face a considerable challenge to reach the £100-million barrier given the recent drop in levy yield, and it is more important than ever that racecourses take an enlightened approach in this area. Overall though, and as reflected in other key indicators, the sport continues in buoyant health. It is vital that we do not rest on our laurels and the sport must continue to strive to attract new customers and investors."