British Purses, Attendance Dipped Slightly in 2005

Total prize money and attendance in Britain for 2005 fell just below the record levels reached the year before but the British Horseracing Board remains upbeat.

Prize money offered came to £99.3 million, down nearly £2 million on the 2004 level, while the attendance figure at Britain's 59 racecourses, which staged 1,300 race days, one more than in 2004, was 5,896,992, about 150,000 below that seen the year before, while average crowds dropped to 4,536 from 4,656.

Greg Nichols, the BHB chief executive, commented: "Twelve months ago I said that British Racing was well placed to meet the challenges ahead, and so it has proved. Despite well-documented legal setbacks in 2005, and their knock-on financial effects, the sport remains a success story, and in robust health. British racing has never been more popular; it is second only to football in spectator numbers and television viewers, and credit for the continued progress is due to all those who participate in and contribute to the sport."

He is also looking forward to 2006. "There are numerous reasons to believe we can go on to greater success in 2006. We have record levels of investment in the sport, both in terms of racehorse owners and our racecourses.All those with a passion for racing cannot wait for Ascot's reopening later this year, and this year will also see a new all-weather track launched at Kempton Park, and also Great Leighs, the first new course in Britain for over 75 years, open for business.‰

Both the BHB and the Racecourse Association argued that the drop in attendances was due to the closure of Britain‚s top track Ascot for its £200-million redevelopment.

Stripping Ascot and its replacement fixtures out of the equation, the RCA came up with total and average figures which were slightly ahead on 2004.

The BHB announced records for numbers of horses in training (14,577 compared to 14,129, a rise of 3.2%), owners with a horse in training (9,366 compared to 9,266, a rise of 1.1%) and runners (94,659 compared to 92,761, a rise of 2%).