Irish horseracing industry statistics for the first half of 2014 report improvement across many areas with yearly increases in bloodstock sales, racecourse attendances, new owners, Tote turnover and prize-money.
However, the number of active owners remains a concern, according to Horse Racing Ireland.Bloodstock sales at public auction grew for the fifth consecutive time with turnover up by almost 42 per cent from €25.8m (£20.4m) to €36.6m (£28.9m) year-on-year, the highest level it has reached since 2007.
There was a rise in the number of new owners, which increased by 8.2 per cent from 341 to 369. The total number of active owners, however, was down 5.8 per cent from 3,223 to 3,035 and the number of horses in training declined by 5.5 per cent to 7,209, compared to 7,626 in the first six months of 2013, which impacted on entries and runners.
Up 41.9 per cent from €25.8m to €36.6m
Horses in Training
Down 5.5 per cent from 7,626 to 7,209
Number of Active Owners
Down 5.8 per cent from 3,223 to 3,035
Up 8.2 per cent from 341 to 369
Down 10.3 per cent from 28,381 to 25,460
Down 2.9 per cent from 13,299 to 12,910
“I welcome the increase in new owners which has really been a focus this year and coincides with our Racehorse Ownership Manager promoting new ownership and working with existing owners. However, there has been a drop in the number of active owners and a decline in the number of horses in training which shows that we are still under a lot of pressure. The 10% drop in entries can partially be explained by the reduction in races – there were 22 less races and one less fixture compared to the same period last year.”
Overall turnover at Tote Ireland rose by 11.3 per cent, with gains on-course, off-course and across international pools. On-course bookmakers suffered further decline but not as markedly as in previous years.
Brian Kavanagh said: “New strategies and developments implemented at Tote are coming to fruition with increases in turnover across the board. Although on-course betting overall shows a slight decrease, it does appear that the decline over recent years may be bottoming out. Returning on-course betting to growth remains a challenge for the industry.”
Total On-Course Betting
Down 2.9 per cent from €41.7m (£33m) to €40.5m (£32.1)
On-Course Betting Excl. Tote
Down 3.3 per cent from €36.4m (£28.8m) to €35.2m (£27.9m)
Total Tote Betting
Up 11.3 per cent from €24.8m (£19.6m) to €27.6m (£21.9m)
On-Course Tote Betting
Level at €5.3m (£4.2m)
Off-Course Tote Betting (Irish Pools)
Up 15.7 per cent from €16.6m (£13.1m) to €19.2m (£15.2m)
Off-Course Tote Betting (International Pools)
Up 6.9 per cent from €2.9m (£2.3m) to €3.1m (£2.5m)
Up 5 per cent from 499,103 to 524,185
Up 5.7 per cent from 3,159 to 3,339
Down 0.6 per cent from 158 to 157
Attendances at Irish racecourses increased by 5 per cent so far this year, with the average attendance rising by 5.7 per cent. Kavanagh added: “The tangible rise in attendances is a positive development. Racecourses have been working hard to improve their public offering and they have really been pushing to get more people through the gates and to ensure that they come back. All of the major racing festivals including Punchestown, the Fairyhouse Easter Festival and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby increased their attendances year-on-year.”
Up 3.5 per cent from €21.2m (£16.8m) to €21.9m (£17.3)
Down 1.4 per cent from €2.828m (£2.240m) to €2.789m (£2.210m)
Prize-money showed another welcome increase of 3.5 per cent, despite 22 less races being run in the same period. Sponsorship was down slightly by 1.4 per cent.
Brian Kavanagh concluded: “There are a number of positives to take from the six-month figures but the reality remains that the industry is still struggling. The strong bloodstock sales figures leave no doubt that the industry delivers inward investment and a valuable return on investment, but in order to capitalise on this success and tackle future issues, we need to be on a more secure financial footing. Ownership levels, on-course betting and continuing to grow our attendances will remain the priorities. These issues tie in to the fact that there is a lot of work still to be done on racecourse facilities, which we will be able to assist when we are operating off a secure funding base. In that regard, I welcome the progress of the Betting (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil this week.”