A WEEK ahead of the Dublin Racing Festival, there is evidence that Irish racing staged something of a rally in the second half of 2022, with attendances and on-course betting regaining some of the ground lost since Covid.

The upward trend was revealed on Friday when Horse Racing Ireland [HRI] released full-year statistics for 2022. They show a levelling off of many of the figures achieved during the Covid-affected years of 2020 and 2021, but in the areas of ownership, horses-in-training, Tote betting and bloodstock sales, figures are well ahead of 2019.

Reported attendances rallied strongly in the second half of 2022, down just 2.2% on the same period in 2019, and delivering total attendances of almost 1.25 million, a 5.1% decrease on the annual figure for 2019.

Compared to 2019, the total number of owners is up 17.1% to 4,757, with an owner retention rate running at 72.8%. The number of syndicates has grown for the fourth year in-a-row to 825, an increase of 3.4% on 2021 and up 24.2% on 2019. This figure includes 240 syndicates set up for the first time in 2022.

The total number of horses-in-training for 2022 was 10,208, an increase of 14.1% on the 2019 figure, but 3.5% lower than in 2021 when a significant number of older horses, excluded from running in point-to-points, were registered to allow them compete on the racecourse.

The number of fixtures fell back to 388 from a record 394 in 2021. The first six months of the 2021 fixture list saw a readjustment to the racing calendar to accommodate point-to-pointers on the racecourse, fixtures that reflected in that year’s total entries, eliminations, runners and the numbers of horses-in-training.

Once again, there was a notable increase in the overall figure for bloodstock sales at public auction which came in at €215.4 million. It represents a rise of 30.3% on 2019 and is 17.8% ahead of the 2021 figure.

While total betting on-course lags 3.7% behind the 2019 figure of €78.9 million at €76 million, this compares with a 10.6% drop for the first six months of the year.

Total Tote betting of €71.2 million shows an increase of 18.3% on the same year.

Suzanne Eade, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “While the cost of living continues to be an issue for all industries, we can be confident heading into 2023 that racing remains extremely popular in Ireland with attendances rallying strongly in the second half of 2022.”

Looking ahead to next weekend’s two-day Dublin Racing Festival, Leopardstown CEO Tim Husbands said: “Our Christmas crowds (up from 57,000 in 2019 to 60,000) gave us all a boost. It was great to see the appetite among the racing fraternity to come back in large numbers, and the feedback we received was positive.

“I am really hopeful of a bumper crowd next weekend. We had 25,000 over the two days last year but, remember, we only had three weeks to sell it due to restrictions being lifted late. Sales are tracking well, all the hospitality is sold out, and this year we have a bank holiday on the Monday, so we’re hopeful we will get a lot more ‘walk-ups’ on the day.”