THE first consignment of Coolmore horses destined for China left Tipperary in the last week as the Irish bloodstock giant bids to kick-start a new multi-million euro business in the Far East.
The multinational stud business, owned by racing tycoon John Magnier, pictured, and based in Fethard, Co Tipperary, secured a deal with the Chinese authorities last year to set up a horse breeding centre in Tianjin, China's fourth largest city.
It will be the first of its kind in the country when it opens later this year.
The contract to supply over 100 Irish thoroughbreds over the next three years is reputed to be worth more than €38.5m to Coolmore.
"The thrust of this initiative is to get the Chinese industry up on its own feet. Chinese jockeys and vets have already spent months training and learning the skill here in Ireland," explained Michael O'Hagan, CEO of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, who opened an office in Beijing last year.
Coolmore's input will be just one part of a €1.5bn plan to construct a 870-acre horse training and breeding complex in eastern China to rival similar set-ups in Kentucky in the US, Deauville in France and the Hunter Valley in Australia.
It includes two international standard racetracks, five training tracks, an international equestrian college, auction house, 4,000 horse stalls and 150 trainers' offices.
The Department of Agriculture has been pushing hard to progress opportunities in China.
Yesterday, it announced that it had secured approval from Chinese veterinary authorities to quarantine horses destined for China.
Previously, horses had to be quarantined for up to six weeks in Holland before travelling on to China.
By moving the quarantining requirements to Ireland, horse owners will be able to save thousands of euro per horse on feed, bedding, accommodation and transport.
"This is definitely a huge step forward for the industry and will have substantial benefits for the Irish horse business," said Irish Thoroughbred Marketing's Elaine Hatton.