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Racing: Optimism among owners

A survey of racehorse owners published today contradicts the view of a vocal minority who claim that the sport will perish unless owners are able to recover a greater proportion of their costs through prize- money. The survey suggests that owners are prepared to pay for the fun they get from racing despite the prospect of little or no financial reward.

The joint British Horseracing Board/Weatherby's questionnaire revealed that 86 per cent of owners felt that excitement and fun were the most important reason behind their continued active participation in racing.

The survey, which cost pounds 10,000, also found that the social and economic profile of ownership is changing. The number of "white and blue collar" C1, C2, D and E groups involved in racehorse ownership has increased from 29 per cent of owners to 37 per cent since the last survey, two years ago.

Lee Richardson, the BHB's marketing director, said: "The vast majority of owners are paying for their involvement in earned income. There is still a bias towards the more affluent, but the ownership base is widening. Owners are increasingly working people."

The survey also found that only six per cent of owners claimed to cover costs but that 90 per cent still expect to be owning horses in three years, with 50 per cent expecting to own more horses than they do today.

John Paxman, Director General of the Racehorse Owners Association, said: "Generally this is encouraging. The economy has picked up, which is a major factor. However, prize-money still remains a matter of concern to owners and requires positive action."

Racecourses and trainers were credited by the majority of owners as giving value for money. They also felt that racecourse facilities had improved.