Financial challenges to Irish horse racing industry underlined by six-month figures

Bloodstock sales have been decimated to the tune of 87.3%
Financial challenges to Irish horse racing industry underlined by six-month figures

Members of the public looking in from the Ross Road as racing takes place at Killarney behind closed doors. Photo Healy Racing.

Horse Racing Ireland's statistics for the first six months of the year show attendances down 79.1% as events are run behind closed doors, while bloodstock sales have been decimated to the tune of 87.3%.

That latter figure is down €41.73m compared to 2019, with sales either deferred or moved out of Ireland. The second half of the year is traditionally busier for sales, with the scheduled sales generating €150m last year, and HRI say they are working with the Government to ensure they can safely resume in August.

The racing programme was effectively halved between January and June due to cancellations and postponements, with fixtures, entries, and total runners down close to 50%. Prize money (down €16.47m) and sponsorship (down €2.14m) saw equivalent declines.

On-course betting revenue decreased by 73.9%, a €24.4m fall.

More than half of the 87 fixtures lost while Irish racing was in lockdown will be saved, it was announced last month, although restrictions continue. Only key personnel who have completed medical screening and thermal checks are permitted on track.

The Government's decision to delay phase four of the roadmap to reopen Ireland means racehorse owners will currently have to wait until August to return to courses.

Active ownership numbers in the sport are down 13.9%, although the figure for current horses-in-training has proved resilient, increasing by 6.8% year-on-year to the end of June. 

The total attendance figure for the period fell from 555,475 in 2019 to 116,293, with the Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals among the fixtures cancelled.

“2020 has been a devastating year for the country and like many other sectors, the horse racing and breeding industry has suffered greatly having effectively come to a standstill on March 24,” said HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh.

“Horse Racing Ireland and the racecourses are working to develop methods by which attendance can return once deemed appropriate by the Government. This is challenging and the contribution to the industry by the racecourses in continuing to race behind closed doors since June 8 is commendable.

“While traditionally the quieter part of the year, bloodstock sales figures for the first half of 2020 were decimated. The sales companies have shown flexibility with regard to their dates and HRI is working with them and Government to ensure that sales can safely resume in Ireland in August.”

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