Six-month statistics for horse racing and breeding in Ireland point to continued resilience in the industry with sponsorship revenues bouncing back to more than double those of 2021 though still 26 per cent off the comparative figure in 2019.

While some of the metrics are down year-on-year, many of the figures released by Horse Racing Ireland compare favourably to the first six months of 2019, the last full year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

When compared with 2019 the number of horses in training, total runners and field sizes all show increases. The figures for ownership in Ireland are down a touch on the same period last year, but 22.3 per cent ahead of where it was in 2019.

In total, in the first six months of this year, there were 3,975 active owners in the sport, including 510 who were new to it.

Attendance for the first half of 2022 is down 9% on 2019 levels with on-course bookmakers reduced by 10.3 per cent, and Tote Ireland turnover down 12.8 per cent. This is indicative of a general trend where people have still been slow to return to mass gatherings, particularly in the early stage of the period under inspection.

The attendances at Galway Races next week will likely be a bellweather for the health of the sport as a consumer attraction emerging from the dark days of the pandemic.

Bloodstock sales in Ireland at public auctions continue to thrive and the first half of 2022 is up 31 per cent on the most comparable recent figure of 2019.

“After a challenging couple of years, the hard work and efforts across the industry have meant that Irish racing is in a strong position to face up to the combined challenges of the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and an increase in the general cost of living,” said Suzanne Eade, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland.

“In the first half of last year, our racing calendar adapted to reflect increased demand, particularly in the National Hunt sector, for racing opportunities for a growing horse population.”

“A significant number of extra races were scheduled to allow horses unable to run in point-to-points to compete on the racecourse. That necessity no longer exists, and it is telling that the entries, runners and field sizes are all tracking ahead of the same comparable period which is January – June 2019.

“I am very encouraged that the number of active owners has held up well while we continue to attract healthy numbers of new owners with 510 registrations in the first six months of 2022, a significant figure in the face of so much economic uncertainty. Again, these numbers are ahead of pre-Covid levels of 2019.”

“What has decreased, by 9 per cent, is the attendance levels compared to 2019. Many sports and leisure sectors have faced a challenge in returning to pre-Covid levels of attendance and Irish racing is not immune to that.”

“It is a challenge that everybody will step up to and over the past few weeks we have enacted a strong media marketing campaign to drive attendances throughout the summer.”

“I have seen many instances of innovation and strong engagement from racecourses over the past few weeks and months and am confident that the interest we know there is in racing, will translate back into racecourse attendance.”

“An increase in total Tote betting to €31.9m points to the benefits of its strategic alliance with Tote UK, and off-course betting into Irish pools is up 21.3 per cent on the 2019 tally. However, betting on-course, for both Tote and bookmakers, is down on the pre-pandemic 2019 figures.”