2014 was another successful year for the Irish bloodstock industry, with sales of €147.4 million representing double-digit growth for the fourth year in a row, according to Horse Racing Ireland’s (HRI) annual statistics.
- Tote Ireland posted increases for the fourth consecutive year
- Racecourse attendances grew by 4% for the second year in succession.
- Commercial sponsorship, a key marker of business confidence in racing, grew by over 6%.
- On-course betting recovered marginally, delivering the first improvement since 2007.
- 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, with Irish horses exported to 34 different countries.
While these were the highlights of the year-end industry figures, significant challenges remain, as seen in the decline in horses-in-training, race entries and ownership, although recruitment of new owners improved slightly.
- Bloodstock Sales up 10.5% from €133.4m to €147.4m
- Export Sales up 11.7% from €205.4m to €229.4m
HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said: “This is the fourth consecutive year of dynamic growth in bloodstock sales at public auction in Ireland which is a testament to the appeal of Irish thoroughbreds, based on their racing success at home and overseas.’’
Horses in Training and Ownership
- Horses in Training down 6.4% from 9,199 to 8,613
- Owners down 6.2% from 3,953 to 3,706
- New Owners up 4% from 635 to 660
- Entries down 11.9% from 63,524 to 55,991
- Field Sizes down from 11.6 to 11.0
Brian Kavanagh commented: “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. 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.”
- Total Tote Betting up 10.8% from €55.6m to €61.6m
- Bookmaker Betting (ring) down 0.7% from €70.8m to €70.3m
- On-Course SP Shops up 11.5% from €8.7m to €9.7m
- On-Course Tote Betting level at €14.2m
- Total On-Course Betting up 0.5% from €93.7m to €94.2m
Tote Ireland’s revenue increase was driven mainly by growth in betting on Irish racing from international markets, along with growth in its business with UK Totepool. Tote Ireland partners with many international operators to sell tote betting on Irish racing and the increase in 2014 reflects continued success in this area.
Bookmaker betting on-course has finally seen a tapering-off of the steep declines registered in each of the last seven years, amounting to a cumulative drop in turnover of €135 million. With a €1 million increase in on-course SP shop turnover, overall on-course betting has seen its first increase since 2007.
2014 Attendances and Fixtures:
- Total Attendances up 4% from 1.24m to 1.29m
- Average Attendances up 4% from 3,548 to 3,705
- Fixtures down 0.6% from 349 to 347
Attendance growth of 4% was recorded for both total attendances and average attendance per meeting for the second consecutive year. The racing festivals were particularly strong, with the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend significantly increasing numbers at Leopardstown and the Curragh.
Brian Kavanagh commented: “We are confident that racing has retained its popularity with the sporting public and is in a strong position to benefit from the improving economy. Irish Champions Weekend showed that innovation and a team approach can deliver long-lasting benefits for everyone in the sport.’’
2014 Prize-money and sponsorship:
- Prize-money up 6.1% from €45.9m to €48.6m
- Commercial Sponsorship up 6.3% from €3.7m to €4m
In order to stay competitive internationally, improve returns to existing owners and attract new owners, HRI made improvements in prize-money a priority for 2014 with an increase of 6.1% to €48.6 million, including a rise in the minimum race value from €7,000 to €7,500. Prize-money will increase by a further €5 million, or 10%, in 2015, to a projected €53.9 million.
Brian Kavanagh: “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.
Brian Kavanagh continued:
“In 2014 Irish-bred and trained horses enjoyed tremendous global success. At Cheltenham in 2014, there were 16 Irish-bred and 12 Irish-trained winners. Irish trainers equalled the record of eight wins at Royal Ascot and at the prestigious York Ebor festival each of the feature races was won by an Irish-trained horse. Irish sprinters dominated the world sprints with Tom Hogan’s Gordon Lord Byron beating the top Australian sprinters in Rosehill in March and winning on QIPCO British Champions Day in October. Irish-trained and bred Adelaide (IRE) became the first non-Australasian horse to win Australia’s premier weight- for-age race, The Cox Plate, for Aidan O’Brien. Eddie Lynam won four of the five British Group 1 all-aged sprint races with his star sprinters Sole Power and Slade Power.”