Horse racing is facing a downturn. The figures speak for themselves. Although this year has seen a larger drop than usual (the greatest ever in fact), the trend has been reasonably steady for the past 13 years.
This year we saw the lowest overall Cup Carnival attendance since 1997.
Many would shout that the poor turnout was all due to bad weather, conveniently forgetting that Cup Day was glorious yet the numbers were still down; the lowest they’ve been since 1995.
Here is the annual change in attendances for the full 4-day Melbourne Cup Carnival; attendances peaked at 418,000 in 2006 and are now down to 276,000:
2005-2009: +3.56%, +8.20%, -5.20%, -0.35%, -7.35%
2010-2014: -4.46%, +0.54%, -1.06%, -6.09%, -1.74%
2015-2019: -3.92%, +1.76%, -2.65%, -2.31%, -7.81%
Stakes Day saw its lowest attendance since 2004 and Oaks Day its lowest since 1994.
Derby Day saw its lowest attendance since 1999.
We suspect there may be a few reasons why attendance has been in steady decline but there is absolutely no doubt that concern for the treatment of horses is a huge contributing factor along with the growing understanding that animals are simply not objects for our entertainment.
In 2018 $128 million was spent on a new members grandstand at the Flemington racecourse. The industry’s most prominent event on the racing calendar, the 4 day Cup Carnival, averaged a venue capacity of just 58%. $128 million spent on a building they cannot fill whilst well over 10,000 horses every year, many of whom have been viewed and cheered from the luxurious platforms, are being sent to be killed because the industry will not afford them a retirement plan.
We suspect this downward spiral will continue into the future. Not only because the country is now well aware that thousands of these exploited horses are being sent to a brutal and terrifying death each year, but because horse racing is inherently cruel. The horse racing industry has indeed lost its social license. Token amounts of money thrown at the issues can not change that. Time’s up!
It is now that we must campaign harder than ever before. There is much work to be done.