Racing bosses back a winner

RACECOURSE bosses are buoyed by figures which show an increase on the amount of punters flooding through the tunrnstiles.

While many race meetings across the UK have had to cope with smaller crowds as a result of the economic downturn, Sedgefield's figures show an impressive 16 per cent rise over the last year when compared to the 2009 figures.

The news comes despite the loss of one of the course's most popular fixtures, the Boxing Day meeting which was traditionally the biggest crowd-puller of the year before it was axed in 2009.

But the Racing for Change initiative, a scheme which allowed punters free admission into the course, helped keep the attendance figures up over 2010.

Sedgefield Racecourse's general manager Jill Williamson said: "The Racing for Change event was significant and we are hoping that will run again this year.

"Although it was a free event, it was fantastic to see a lot of new faces which we are hoping we will see again.

"Although we lost Boxing Day, we gained an extra fixture in August – Ladies Day – which I think could become one of the most popular days of the season.

"Themed racing days have become very successful for us, and we hope that will continue."

The latest figures released by horse racing chiefs show the average attendance at Sedgefield, situated off the A689, was 1,533, with a total attendance of 23,001.

That figure was a 16.83 per cent hike on figures recorded in 2009.

Only Ayr Racecourse in Scotland recorded a higher percentage increase in the year-on-year figures.

Rival regional courses enjoyed mixed success in 2010, with Newcastle's Gosforth Park recording a slight increase at 1.56 per cent, though Redcar and Hexham reported drops of over nine per cent.

The next meeting at Sedgefield takes place on Tuesday, January 25, with the first race due off at 1.30pm.