Horse Racing Ireland yesterday announced their 2014 figures and despite the fact that Irish racing is showing growth in what the report described as “key areas” it also added that “signficant challenges remain”.
The biggest highlight came in the category of bloodstock sales with that area showing a 10.5 per cent increase up to €147.4m from €133.4m, while export sales were up 11.7 per cent from €205.4m to €229.4m which represented a double digit growth for the fourth year in a row.
Racecourse attendances also grew and in 2014 were up four per cent, which was the second consecutive year of a rise in that area, while commercial sponsorship was up over six per cent.
For the fourth year in a row Tote Ireland posted an increase in figures, while on-course betting recovered marginally and improved for the first time since 2007.
Of the positives, HRI chairman 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 enduring appeal of Irish thoroughbreds, based on their racing success at home and overseas.
“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.”
Good figures at Punchestown, Galway, Listowel and Leopardstown’s respective festivals helped the total attendance increase from 1.24m to 1.29m, while the average attendance last year was also up 4 per cent to 3,705 compared to 3,548 in 2013 and all of this is despite the fact that the number of fixtures in Ireland was two lower than 2013.
The total number of horses in training was down 6.4 per cent last year with 8,613 horses returned last year compared to 9,199, while there was a similar decrease in the number of owners, 3,706 from 3,953.
The number of new owners was up however with 660 new owners registering but entries in races and field sizes both dropped with a significant fall in entries from 63,524 to 55,991.
Kavanagh added: “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.”
He concluded: “Despite signs of growth across many key areas we still face the challenge of retaining and attracting racehorse owners.
“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.”
Irish trained horses won a total of £9.246m in the UK last year and a further €4.531m around the world.