Only way is up for HRI and bloodstock trade
'The only way is up' represents in a nutshell the aspirations of Horse Racing Ireland and indeed the bloodstock industry in general here for a reverse in the key trends of the sport, which continued mostly on a downward spiral last year.
Just marginal increases in gross bloodstock sales and point-to-point fixtures, in addition to a levelling off in the average attendance at meetings, afforded some crumbs of comfort as HRI published their 2010 annual statistics yesterday.
No wonder their chief executive Brian Kavanagh, having termed this scenario as "the first hopeful signs for the industry since the downturn began," also warned: "This is by no means a recovery, but a positive indication that racing can work its way through the challenges."
Noting what he described as "these welcome indicators of levelling off in an industry which is still feeling the full force of recession," Kavanagh conceded: "2008 was the first year of contraction in 15 years and the decline in attendances and bloodstock sales, key markers of the health of the business, accelerated in 2009. I welcome any sign of those trends tailing off."
Other than an 0.7pc upswing in bloodstock sales and two more point-to-points, plus no change in average attendances at 3,586 people, the returns for last year make rather sobering reading, with on-course betting declining sharply again by 10pc to €164m and total prize-money dipping by 13pc to €46m. The on-course bookmakers had a turnover of €282m in 2007.