Bloodstock sales, Tote betting and racecourse attendances produced significant growth in 2011, figures issued by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) today show. This marks a positive upturn for the industry which had suffered severe contraction since 2007 across almost all areas.
Growing success in overseas markets saw Irish-foaled horses exported to 35 countries compared to 34 in 2010. Bloodstock sales at public auction in Ireland were €81 million, up 19% from €68 million in 2010. It is estimated that a further €112 million of bloodstock was sold by Irish consignors at auction in Britain and France and the total value of Irish-foaled exported horses sold at public auction was €156.5 million, up 6.5% from €146.9 million.
Racecourse attendances were up by 40,000 at 1.24 million compared to 1.20 million in 2010. The average attendance at race meetings in 2011 was 3,682, up 3% from 3,586.
Tote betting was €51.1 million, up 11.3% from €45.9 million, with most of the increase generated by international co-mingling deals.
While the number of new owners entering the market, an important indicator of the health of horse racing, emerged fractionally ahead at 777, just one up on 2010, total active ownership declined by 8% from 4,667 to 4,278.
The total ownership figure, along with declines in a number of other key areas, show the limited nature of the recovery and the scale of the challenges which must be faced in coming years. The average number of horses in training fell from 5,769 to 5,030, the lowest number in ten years. Bookmakers’ betting on-course fell from €107.4 million to €97.5million, reflecting the twin challenges of the recession and online wagering, while prize-money fell from €46.0 million to €44.4 million and is now at its lowest level since 2002.
Irish-trained horses had remarkable success in the UK and overseas, with a 53% increase in prize money won abroad from €8.52 million in 2010 to €13 million. Irish trainers’ skills are reflected in the World Thoroughbred Rankings which show that 6 of the top 10 and 14 of the top 30 two-year-olds in the world in 2011 were Irish–trained.
Horse Racing Ireland CEO, Brian Kavanagh said: “The 2011 figures contain some welcome news for an industry which has endured heavy cutbacks and difficult trading conditions in recent years. The growth in racecourse attendance is particularly welcome given the pressure that leisure and retail markets generally have been under and I congratulate the racecourses who have worked hard to attract and retain race-goers.
Strong bloodstock sales overall and growth in the value of exports for Irish-bred horses show that the reputation and value of the Irish thoroughbred remains high and this gives us confidence that this figure will continue to grow. The weakness of the horses in training figure, however, is a cause for real concern as this is the area where rural employment is most affected. This is one of the many challenges which must be addressed in the coming year.”
Key performance figures which grew:
• Bloodstock Sales* up 19.1% to €81m
• Tote Betting up 11.3% to €51.1m
• Irish-foaled exported horse sales up 6.5% to €156.5m
• Total Attendances up 3.3% to 1.24m
• New Owners up 0.1% to 777
Key performance figures which declined:
• Average Horses in Training down 12.8% to 5030
• On-Course Bookmakers Betting down 9.2% to €97.5m
• Total Number of Owners down 8.3% to 4,278
• Total Prize Money down 3.5% to €44.4m
• Race Sponsorship down 3% to €4.8m
Kavanagh continued: “Irish racing is showing resilience in the face of the recession but its capacity to re-build has been severely limited by successive cutbacks to its budget, totalling 26% since 2008. This is a direct consequence of low betting duties and the movement of betting revenues online and off-shore. The negative effect of this on prize money and investment has had damaging effects throughout the industry. Our prize money is at its lowest level for ten years, at a time when other major European racing countries are announcing prize money increases. The 2011 World Thoroughbred Rankings which were published last week, with six of the top ten and fourteen of the top thirty two-year-olds in the world Irish-trained show the potential which exists for real growth in this sector if we can get the structures and funding in place to do so.