It's the first year of the horse as thoroughbreds sold to China
A CONSIGNMENT of top quality Irish thoroughbreds has been exported to China in what the horse industry hopes will be part of a multi-million-euro trade.
Nine thoroughbreds touched down in Beijing this week in a six-figure deal, the first major export of animals under a new agreement between the Department of Agriculture and Chinese authorities.
And with Irish showjumper Billy Twomey finishing runner-up at a major showjumping event in Shanghai yesterday, experts believe Irish horses could become hugely sought after among the country's newly wealthy.
Sport Horse Ireland chairman Professor Pat Wall said that the prospects for Irish sport horses were stronger than for racehorses because there was a gambling ban in China.
"Billy Twomey's success puts Ireland's name up in lights as there's a lot of countries competing to supply horses to China," he said.
Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), a semi-state firm promoting Irish horses to overseas buyers, said the racehorses airlifted out in recent days have benefited from a new health protocol between China and Ireland, which provides for pre-export quarantine in approved Irish premises, helping cut costs for Irish sellers.
There is also a further deal for 12 more racehorses and showjumpers to go out over the summer and ITM has opened an office in Beijing.
Coolmore Stud announced a major plan two years ago to set up a new horseracing centre in Tianjin, which was expected to be worth €38m to Ireland over a number of years. However, the gambling ban there means progress has been slow.
Michael Donohoe of bloodstock agency BBA Ireland, which organised this week's sale of horses to China, said that there was massive potential in China for horse exports.
"There are 60 riding clubs in Beijing alone, so it is definitely a market to look to for the future," he said.