01/24/2012 11:55AM

British racecourses set attendance mark

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Attendance at Britain’s 59 racecourses reached a record 6.15 million in 2011, the third time it has cracked the six-million level and first time since 2004.

The figures were announced on Tuesday by the Racecourse Association, the trade association for Britain’s racecourses. The previous record was 6.048 million set in 2004. There were more than 1,500 racing days in Britain last year, which attracted an average crowd of 4,187.

Total attendance rose by 6.6 percent, while average daily attendance improved by 1 percent. Favorable weather conditions in December of 2011 were cited in published reports as a contributing factor to the increase.

Stephen Atkin, the chief executive of the Racecourse Association, said in a statement that overall attendance rose for the third consecutive year. “To break the previous record is fantastic,” he said. “Financially, it is a very difficult time for people at the moment so it is a vindication of the exemplary work being done on Britain’s racecourses that more and more people are enjoying a day out at the races.”

The cost of attending races in Britain is far greater than at most American tracks. Even the smaller tracks charge the equivalent of $16 to $32 to attend weekday races, while top events, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup or Grand National meeting, have admission costs that easily surpass $75.