Investors set to put £300m on the horses

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The Independent Online

British horse-racing will attract £300m in investment over the next five years, making it the country's second most popular sports investment sector after football.

The new statistics, set to be published this week, on the eve of the new racing season, lay bare the growing scale of the horse-racing business in the UK.

Increased investment in racetracks and an extended racing calendar have increased attendance and turnover, according to the Deloitte & Touche report, commissioned by the Racecourse Holdings Trust.

The findings show that jump racing is the fastest-growing part of the industry, with attendance up 43 per cent between 2001 and 2005. "Throughout the year, jump racing accounts for almost 40 per cent of the bookmaking industry's total British turnover of £4bn," said John O'Reilly, the managing director of eGaming at Ladbrokes.

In the peak winter season between November and April, jump racing accounts for two-thirds of all race betting turnover in the UK, according to the Deloitte report. "The value of jump racing cannot be overestimated," said Mr O'Reilly. Jump racing encompasses the steeplechase, where horses jump over fixed fences, and hurdle races, which have less rigid obstacles.

Horse-racing sponsorship revenues hit £23m last year. Scottish & Newcastle, through its John Smiths brand, sponsors the Grand National at Aintree. Anglo Irish is a sponsor of Cheltenham Racecourse and Brit Insurance and JCB have also signed deals. Ninety-two per cent of races shown on TV are sponsored.

The industry employs 88,000 people across the country and in the past four years £420m has been spent on improving course facilities. Tax revenues from horse racing and associated gambling contributed £280m to the Exchequer last year.

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