Tuesday 18 December 2018

Startling decline in the number of national hunt trainers in Ireland continues

High profile trainers like Charlie Swan, Colm Murphy and Sandra Hughes quit the game in recent years due to financial pressures
High profile trainers like Charlie Swan, Colm Murphy and Sandra Hughes quit the game in recent years due to financial pressures

Cormac Byrne

There are 93 holders of a national hunt training license remaining in the country, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) Integrity Statistics reveal.

In recent years the decision of high-profile jumps trainers like Charlie Swan, Colm Murphy and Sandra Hughes to quit the game because they felt it was no longer financially viable has rocked the industry.

For the first time since 2008, there were fewer than 100 national hunt trainers in operation with 93 still holding licences in 2017. A fall of 10.5pc on the previous year.

The overall figure for trainers in the country has fallen from 805 in 2007 to 578 in 2017.

The trend of annual falls in the number of national hunt riders’ licences issued is reversed with 120 licences issued, a rise of 19pc.

Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the IHRB, said: “It is pleasing to see that the recent trend of falling national hunt riders’ licences has been reversed; however, the fall in national hunt trainers’ licences for both full and restricted licences is very worrying with double digit percentage falls being recorded in both categories.

"The total number of trainers’ licences has fallen from 805 in 2007 to 578 in 2017 and is falling each year. This is an area that will have to be addressed."

Cork trainer Adrian Maguire outlined the difficulties trainers faced last year when he revealed that he was considering walking away from the training game.

"Things are getting tougher and tougher for everyone training horses and (I) just can't make ends meet now. It's costing me money to be training horses," Maguire told At The Races.

"I've no other choice (but to think of handing in training licence). It's just not happening.

"If something is costing you money, you can't be doing it.

"I've five paying horses. That's what I'm down to and I'm open to offers, obviously in some aspect with horses, a role.

"It's getting tougher, I'm not the only one, but that's the way it is with me."

The figures also reveal that 244 riders were drug tested with four riders returning positives tests in 2017.

In terms of testing of horses, 4,094 samples were tested with five tests returning positive.

Egan expressed disappointment at the increase in the number of whip rule breaches and said that the IHRB Directors may need to review the penalty guidelines as the current penalties are not having the desired effect.

Whip rules offences rose 29pc to 169 last year.

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