Racing rides high among youths

Increased attendances at horse racing events in the past year was driven by 18–34-year-olds with the latest Horse Racing Ireland tracker revealing that 45 per cent of this age group attended a horse racing meet in 2023 up from 40% the previous year. In recent months, the trend has continued with attendances at some of the country’s top racing festivals – 62,000 attended Leopardstown at Christmas up 2.5 per cent while 30,093 racegoers.

The Fairyhouse meet at Easter was up four per cent and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby weekend drew a crowd of 36,000, up four points on the previous year. Attendances for the first quarter were up 3.9 per cent compared to the same period last year, from 157,188 to 163,418. The Red C research reveals that 46 per cent of 18–34-year-olds interested in attending future horse racing meetings up from 33 per cent last year.


The study indicates that 38 per cent are planning to attend more race meetings, an increase of 11 per cent. While 30 per cent of 18–34-year-olds declared an interest in horse racing up from 25 per cent last year, three in ten considered themselves to be strong advocates for the sport. HRI’s appeal to younger audiences is also borne out through its series of student race days. In October last year, 6,000 local third level students attended Galway.

Cork capped attendance at 4,000 students and the Leopardstown student race day recorded 10,300 attendees, while 3,000 students showed up for the Irish grand national at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, complete with its on-site entertainment, including DJ Mark McCabe. HRI is the governing body for horse racing in Ireland. Its subsidiary, HRI Racecourses, owns and operates Fairyhouse, Leopardstown, Navan and Tipperary racecourses. 


Horse racing is ranked as Ireland’s fourth most popular sport on 41 per cent, behind rugby on 61 per cent, soccer on 51 per cent and Gaelic football on 44 per cent, and marginally ahead of hurling on 40 per cent. There is widespread appeal across all racing events with 64 per cent of respondents interested in festivals, 39 per cent interested in flat racing, 51 per cent in national hunt, and 41 per cent favour a mixed card race meeting.

As part of their strategy to engage the 18-34 demographic, HRI became the first sporting body in Ireland to launch WhatsApp as a platform for conversational selling in 2023. To date, 3,562 people have registered and with an average open rate of 93 per cent, it is proving an engaged audience for customer engagement, promotions, and sales. Building on this, HRI launched activated its first live Tik Tok campaign at this year’s Cheltenham festival.

HRI has over 46,000 TikTok followers, over 60 per cent of whom are aged 18-34.


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