Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has described 2015 as a remarkable year for the Irish bloodstock industry, with export sales topping €268m.
The national horseracing authority said the results represented a 16.7% increase in the value of sales of racehorses to overseas buyers last year.
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said the sales figures highlighted how much in demand Irish horses were all over the world. Domestic bloodstock sales also rose by 3.5% to €152.2m.
The latest HRI annual report shows its subsidiary, Tote Ireland, recorded its fifth consecutive year of growth, with betting turnover up almost 29% to €79.3m. Turnover among on-course bookmakers fell slightly last year — down 1.4% to €69.3m. A total of 351 race meetings were held during 2015, four more than the previous year.
Racecourse attendances were almost on a par with 2014, despite extreme weather conditions in the latter half of 2015 which impacted on numbers attending meetings.
Mr Kavanagh said the background of growth and consolidation in the industry was not reflected in relation to the number of horses in training, ownership, and race entries.
“We will continue to invest in increased prize money and reduced ownership costs in order to address this,” he said.
Mr Kavanagh’s reappointment this year, for a third term, provoked a political controversy for breaching guidelines that the chief executives of commercial state bodies should only serve a single seven-year period.
HRI chairman Joe Keeling said there had been a continuation of some very positive trends last year, although some core areas of concern, such as ownership and training levels, also persisted.
Mr Keeling said increasing the number of horses in training was one of his main priorities as he believed it was essential to maintain the competitiveness of Irish racing and to generate increased employment in a vital rural industry. “We also need to improve facilities for owners at racecourses,” he said.
Mr Keeling welcomed the Government’s commitment to increase funding through the Horse and Greyhound Fund, which, he claimed, demonstrated confidence in the industry and its ability to deliver a return on investment.
Major redevelopments are planned for the Curragh and Leopardstown, with other upgrade projects in the pipeline for Punchestown, Listowel, Fairyhouse, Naas, Sligo, and Cork.
It is estimated the Irish racing and breeding industry contributes over €1bn annually to the economy.
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