LIMERICK Racecourse manager Tom Rudd says he is “very pleased” with the four-day attendance figure of 17,500 at the Christmas Festival in Greenmount this week, and has queried the veracity of the 40,000 figure given for the same four days in 2019.

Betting figures and anecdotal evidence would also suggest that this year’s crowds in Limerick were comparable with 2019, the most recent year when there were no attendance restrictions.

Rudd, who only took over at Limerick in July, said: “We were hoping for 6,000 on St Stephen’s Day and we had 8,000, so we were delighted. There was a huge number of young people here and they enjoyed their day’s racing. I can’t comment on the 2019 figures – that was before my time – but I would maintain it was as busy this year as any other year.”

Local trainer Eoin McCarthy, who saddled three winners at the meeting, attended the final three days of the Festival. “I was in Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day but the lads from my yard who were in Limerick said they had never seen a crowd like it there. The traffic was backed out on to the motorway. I was there the following three days and felt there was a solid crowd there each day.”

Bookmaker betting at Limerick over the four days was down 10%, which would be in line with industry trends, while Tote betting was up almost 10%, casting further doubt over the attendance figures given three years ago.

Leopardstown welcomed over 60,000 racegoers over the four days, a 6% increase on its 2019 totals. Track CEO Tim Husbands said: “We had a feeling it would go well, based on advance sales, social media mentions and the industry buzz. We worked really hard to create awareness and to provide an enjoyable experience, both for the pubic and racing industry.”

Husbands estimates that approximately 8,000 of the 15,000 racegoers present on December 26th were young people. Attending Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day is a tradition among Dubliners aged 16 to 25.

“Younger racegoers are more likely to buy their tickets in advance and in bundles, availing of special offers,” Husbands said. “Because of the age profile, we put on extra food offerings, such as doughnuts and burger vans, and we allow drinks orders to be placed by phone which saves time on queuing.”

He added: “We’re also growing the number of racegoers coming from Britain. It augurs well for the Dublin Racing Festival and for the industry in general.”

Down Royal had an official attendance of 6,136 which is close to capacity. The track’s Grade 1 meeting in November typically attracts around 5,500.