Viewing figures for Racing from the Curragh over the weekend were almost double what they have been on average over the last five years.

The Tattersalls 2000 Guineas on Friday evening was the first live sport that RTÉ has broadcast since March and drew 129,000 viewers for the coverage on RTÉ2. The equivalent number for last year’s renewal was 69,000.

The big race on Saturday was the Tattersalls 1,000 Guineas and that went higher again with 150,000 tuning in.

The average audience was 97,000 across the Saturday programme, up on a 79,000 average over the previous five years when the race was traditionally held on a Sunday.

“Strict audience numbers were never the one parameter for us. It was about getting live sport back,” said RTÉ Head of Sport Declan McBennett speaking to Brian O’Connor in the Irish Times today.

“But the numbers are extremely good and very encouraging with regard to future racing and the desire of the public for live sport, including racing.”

The average audience for the 2,000 Guineas on the Friday evening was 83,000, double the 42,000 that has tuned in on average over the past five years.

A strong race and a winning story behind the successful trainer and jockey will have helped in the appeal of the sport which will now feature every week in early primetime on weekends over the next five weeks.

“It is a short-term commitment for now until we see the broader picture,” added McBennett.

“In truth we don’t know how finances or live sport or the industry as a whole will come out of this.”

“But it’s a commitment we’ve put in place in order to allow Horse Racing Ireland catch up. We will reassess it at the end of the period.”

Royal Ascot begins today, behind closed doors for the first time in its storied history. Coverage will be on ITV and Virgin Media over the rest of the week.

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