Jockey Club chief welcomes record revenues but attaches health warning

The Jockey Club operates 15 racecourses including Aintree, which stages the Grand National

Jockey Club chief executive Simon Bazalgette welcomed a 10th successive year of commercial growth but warned the sport faces "a time of financial challenge" on Thursday.

British racing's biggest commercial group, which operates 15 racecourses including Aintree, Cheltenham and Epsom and stages events such as the Grand National and the Derby, saw its revenues grow to a record £214.6 million ($277 million) in 2018.

Those figures allowed the Jockey Club to contribute a record £27.1 million into the prizemoney pot -- up by just over £4 million from 2017 and more than double the amount it contributed 10 years ago.

But revenues could be hit due to the British government's decision to reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2 from £100 from this month, which has prompted bookmakers to warn of high street shop closures, potentially hitting racing income.

"Since 2009 we have grown our commercial revenues consistently and that's been vital to allowing us to more than double our contribution into British Racing's prize money," said Bazalgette in a statement issued by the Jockey Club.

"There's a lot of positive progress the sport rightly can be proud of but our next set of results will include the first year of the impact of the changes in the gambling sector and we need to be realistic that we're now into a time of financial challenge for British racing."

Bazalgette, who has been in his post since 2008, was nevertheless upbeat about the future of the sport.

"If the sport as a whole collaborates, innovates and diversifies, we can come out of the other side in good shape," he said.

"At our core we have a lot of resilience and we need to keep up the good work going on in growing our fan base and not lose sight of the huge role the British public has played in making us Britain's second biggest spectator sport.

"What we can guarantee in uncertain times is that the Jockey Club will do everything in our power to support the sport along the way."