(Reuters) - Horse racing has regained second spot in Britain's popularity stakes in terms of attendance after a year's absence, leapfrogging rugby with nearly six million people going to meets in 2016.

Football is still the most popular sport by far, but racing recovered after dropping a place in 2015 because of the impact of the Rugby World Cup in England.

About 5.99 million people, nearly 40 percent of whom were women, were at the races last year, according to an industry survey, with the Royal Ascot, Cheltenham and Epsom among the year's top 10 attended events.

"The five-year growth trajectory highlights that a day out at the races continues to increase in popularity," Stephen Atkin, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, was quoted as saying by the Times.

"We have the broadest data warehouse of attendees in any sport. Through intelligent use of this data racecourses can now make targeted improvements to the raceday experience and grow attendances."

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)