ONLY Ascot and Cheltenham boasted bigger racecourse attendances last season than York, new figures have revealed.

The Racecourse Association’s (RCA) annual list, which detail the number of people who visited every track in Britain during 2012, show that 342,120 walked through the gates at Knavesmire last year.

The list was headed by Ascot (570,331) with Cheltenham (445,772) in second place. York’s average attendance over its 17 days of racing last year was 20,125, a figure bettered by Aintree, Ascot and Cheltenham.

York’s attendances were just over five per cent down on 12 months ago, which was a record, but racecourse chiefs put that down to the weather and the Friday night July meeting competing with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Over the whole of the country, the wettest summer for a century took its toll – with total attendances falling from 6.1 million in 2011 to 5.58 million 12 months later. They said the majority of this fall was a direct result of abandoned race meetings.

James Brennan, York’s head of marketing, said: “We were delighted at the support we received from racegoers during 2012, especially given that we suffered during the wettest summer on record.

“The highlight was the 30,000 who will long remember seeing Frankel and the big summer Saturdays continue to be exciting occasions with nearly 40,000 that saw McFly (in July). We were racing against the Olympics opening ceremony and that was a once in a lifetime competition, but we were pleased to put on the show and offered record prize money (over the year), which has again allowed us to offer record prize money this year.”

Stephen Atkin, RCA chief executive, said: “British racecourses are to be commended for their hard work in 2012 to promote our sport in what proved to be a very difficult year with a number of challenges.

“I am glad that racecourses were able to help attract, in some instances, record crowds to see equine stars such as Frankel light up the track despite the weather and while having to compete against a number of other distractions throughout the year like the London Olympic and Paralympic Games and the UEFA European Championships.

“We look forward to continuing the hard work in 2013 and facing the challenges that the year will inevitably bring.”