Horse Racing Figures Rise Again

Commercial sponsorship being invested in Irish racing grew by another three percent in 2017, adding to a strong year in 2016 where the increase was 12 percent.

Over the past two years now the annual income gained from sponsors has risen from €4.3 million to €4.94 million, nudging it ever closer to the figure attained centrally from the GAA which yesterday was also revealed to be a figure of €5.2 million in 2017.

“This upward trend is very encouraging and shows that confidence in horse racing’s appeal as an advertising and promotional vehicle for business is strong,” Horse racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh told us yesterday.

The rise in sponsorship was one of several very positive indicators for the sport revealed in the publication of the Annual Irish Thoroughbred Industry Statistics.

“2017 represented a seventh consecutive year of growth in sales, with the value of Irish bloodstock sold at public auction being €175.6m, up 7% on the 2016 figures,” continued Kavanagh.

“Irish-bred horses continued to dominate at the highest levels internationally and the value of Irish-foaled exports sold at public auction was €268.1m, with clients from 31 different countries investing in Irish bloodstock.”


Prize-money grew by 7.6% to €61.1m with a further increase of €2.2m (3.6%) budgeted for 2018.

“Horse Racing Ireland remains committed to increasing prize-money to remain competitive with our European counterparts and to attract and retain racehorse owners in Ireland.”

One area where the positive glow was tempered was in the attendance at racecourses over the year.

A dip of three percent though can be accounted for largely by the redevelopment work at the Curragh and reduced capacity for both the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby in June and the second day of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Kildare venue in September.

This year will see the completion of a facility that will be among the best in the world and renewed sponsorship of both the Derby and the Tattersalls Irish Guineas meetings announced this week indicate a bolstered confidence in what that will deliver from 2019 onwards.

Attendance is also likely to rise as a result of the creation of this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival which has a target attendance of 25,000 over it’s two days of action at Leopardstown.


There was no positive news on the distribution of betting revenues in last year’s budget though that debate will continue and there was some positive news on betting turnover with a seventh straight year of rising turnover and contribution back to the sport from Tote Ireland.

Tote Ireland turnover burst up to €103 million last year, an increase of seven percent.

The financial numbers reflect another very strong year of performance on the track here and overseas.

Nineteen Irish-trained winners at the 2017 Cheltenham festival set the tone for a year of international success, followed by a Melbourne Cup success for 24-year-old trainer Joseph O’Brien, and a world record 28 Group and Grade 1 winners for his father, Aidan.

The total number of runners at Irish race meetings rose by 3.5 percent from 28,931 to 29,936.

Ownership numbers were broadly in line with 2016 but there was positive news in the spread of engagement with a five percent growth in the number of syndicates and a 50 percent jump in the number of registered racing clubs.

Stellar Year

“2017 will be committed to the memory as a stellar year for Irish racing, concluded Kavanagh.

“Irish horsemen and women are setting standards, and nowhere was that more evident than in the autumn of 2017 when, after an incredible year, Aidan O’Brien beat Bobby Frankel’s world record for Group and Grade 1 winners trained in a calendar year, establishing a new record of 28 winners. These achievements, as well as Joseph O’Brien’s Melbourne Cup success in November with Rekindling, greatly enhanced the reputation of our racing industry.”

“The sector is facing a series of challenges in the areas of funding, infrastructure, staffing and in particular Brexit and Horse Racing Ireland is engaging with Government, stakeholders and our international counterparts on these matters. We have great ambition to build on the growth and success of 2017 and look forward to engaging with the industry on these plans.”

“Horse racing generates a very significant return to the rural economy in Ireland and positive international profile for our country.”

“The Sports Business Group at Deloitte, in their report into the Economic Impact of Irish Breeding and Racing 2017, published in September, estimated that the industry contributes €1.84bn to the Irish economy, supporting, directly and indirectly, almost 29,000 jobs.”

“Despite our size, we are the third biggest producers of thoroughbred foals in the world and estimates place Ireland only behind the United States as the biggest seller of bloodstock by public auction globally.”

“None of this success could be achieved without the support provided by Government through the Horse and Greyhound Fund which is much appreciated.”

Join us tomorrow for a report on tonight’s ‘Racing to the Top’ event being held in Dublin to introduce new potential owners to the excitement of owning a racehorse.

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