Continued growth in key areas of Irish horse racing industry

Brian Kavanagh

Horse Racing Ireland has released figures detailing a growth in key areas in the country’s racing industry in 2014.

Bloodstock sales and exports have continued their remarkable rise of recent years, while there is growth too in attendances, commercial sponsorship and turnover for Tote Ireland.

It isn’t all good news though, with the trend of falling numbers in ownership and horses-in-training not being reversed.

The €147.4m sales represented a double-digit growth in the Irish bloodstock industry for the fourth successive year, while the total value of Irish-bred horses exported through sale at public auction worldwide amounted to €229.4m, up 11.7% on the previous year. Irish horses were exported to 34 different countries.

“This is the fourth consecutive year of dynamic growth in bloodstock sales at public auction in Ireland which is a testament to the enduring appeal of Irish thoroughbreds, based on their racing success at home and overseas” said HRI chief executive, Brian Kavanagh.

The 4% increase in both total and average attendance figures was also welcomed, although it was noted that the key areas of growth in this area was provided by the festivals, indicating that some of the lower-grade tracks are not thriving in the same manner.

“Irish Champions Weekend showed that innovation and a team approach can deliver long-lasting benefits for everyone in the sport,” said Kavanagh.

Tote Ireland posted an increase for the fourth year in a row, with a 10.8% surge in turnover from €55.6m to €61.6m. And while on-course betting is up marginally by 0.5% to €94.2m, the reduction of action in the betting ring from €70.8m to €70.3m indicates the continuing difficulties for on-course layers.

The 11.5% increase in turnover for on-course SP shops is what causes the on-course betting increase and while the figure is still only €9.7m, it is clear that the shops are representing a significant threat to the ring.

Nevertheless, the stalling of a steep decline in this area, with a cumulative drop of €13m in the past seven years, is a positive.

The statistics for horses in training do not make pleasurable reading though, with a 6.4% reduction from 9,199 to 8,613. The number of owners is down 6.2% from 3,953 to 3,706, despite the slight increase of new owners from 635 to 660. The result of this decrease is a fall in entries from 63,524 to 55,991 (11.9%), while the average field size is now 11 from 11.6.

“We are now seeing the full effect of the dramatic declines in foal crops in 2009 and 2010 and ownership is an area that needs continued focus,” said Kavanagh.

“While the overall number of owners has fallen again, the increase in new owners is welcome and our field sizes bear favourable comparison with other racing jurisdictions.”

He continued: “Despite signs of growth across many key areas, we still face the challenge of retaining and attracting racehorse owners.

“To address this, we are committed to increased prize money and reduced costs of ownership because owners are the foundation on which this industry is built. Our increased race values, coupled with the further reductions in administrative charges, will hopefully encourage new owners into the sport and existing owners to reinvest.

“Increasing the number of horses in training is an absolute priority to maintain the competitiveness of Irish racing and generate increased employment in our vital rural industry.”


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