Friday, January 18, 2008
Horse Racing Ireland issues 2007 industry statistics

Racing in Ireland had an excellent year looking at some of the benchmarks:
  • Tote Up 23.5%
  • Total betting Up 7.6%
  • Attendances Up 1%
  • Sponsorship Up 13%

    The opening of Ireland’s first all-weather floodlit racecourse at Dundalk Stadium was the high point of another successful year for Irish horse racing in 2007. Attendances at race meetings surpassed the record levels of 2006 - despite the wettest summer in recent memory and increases in betting across all outlets show that the sport continues to enjoy widespread support.

    Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI)said “2007 was another very good year for Irish racing on the track and a year of significant growth for horse race betting – particularly on the Tote”. Welcoming increases in sponsorship and prize money, Mr.Kavanagh thanked new and existing sponsors for “seeing the value and impact which horse racing has in reaching wide and powerful audiences.” He went on to emphasise that HRI will continue to promote quality racing and warned that “horses were currently being produced for which there would be no races.”

    Brian Kavanagh congratulated Irish Trainers, Owners and Jockeys on another impressive year. Irish runners again enjoyed major National Hunt success in England, highlighted by Sublimity’s Champion Hurdle victory and Silver Birch’s Aintree Grand National win, the sixth time in nine years that the World’s most famous steeplechase has been claimed by an Irish raider. Further victories at Grade 1 level for Ebaziyan, Cork All Star and Al Eile at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals ensured Ireland had plenty to celebrate.

    On the Flat, Aidan O’Brien claimed the British Trainer’s title for the third time, sending out Dylan Thomas, Peeping Fawn, Excellent Art, Scorpion, Yeats and Listen to achieve Group 1 successes during the year. Jim Bolger, with dual 1,000 Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo and European Champion Two-year-old New Approach, and Tommy Stack, with Myboycharlie and Alexander Tango, also tasted victory at the highest level on foreign soil, while 9 of the 12 domestic Group 1 races were kept at home.

    Attendances at Irish race meetings reached 1.46 million in 2007, marginally ahead of 2006. Total fixtures increased from 319 to 333 (311 in Republic of Ireland). This marginal increase in attendance, while falling short of expectations set by a very strong first half performance came against the background of a year that will be remembered for record breaking rainfall across the summer”.

    Kavanagh commented “Our major Festivals in the Spring at Punchestown (+7%) and Fairyhouse (+13%) suggested the start of another record breaking year but the 49 consecutive days of rain in June and July, followed by a very wet August kept a lot of racegoers away from meetings during the summer. Despite this, the year still recorded an increase of nearly 1% compared to 2006.”

    The betting market was up significantly. Betting on Irish racing in 2007 was healthy with total betting up 7.6% at €282 million. The Tote benefited from increased overseas co-mingling with overall turnover jumping by 23% to just over €61 million.

    Ireland’s first all-weather track opened at Dundalk in September and despite an ongoing dispute between the racecourse and the INBA (Irish National Bookmakers Association), the initial experience of the facilities and evening floodlit racing has been universally positive. Racegoers, trainers and jockeys have all commented on the quality of the track, the racing programme and the facilities which are now on offer.

    Brian Kavanagh commented: - “Prize-money and sponsorship are critical elements of the racing economy and ensure the health of the domestic racing scene. In 2007 these vital areas recorded large increases - prize-money grew to €59.6 million (+8.3%) while sponsorship rose to €9.2 million (+13%). The bulk of the growth in prize-money was on the Flat and of course, one of the most important flat races of the year, The Irish Derby, is seeking a new sponsor from 2008”.

    2007 saw a total of 12,188 horses returned in training during the year (+9.7%) and 34,291 runners (+ 8.3%) at 333 race meetings. This led to regular balloting in many races and in 2007 HRI re-iterated its commitment to quality by raising the minimum flat and national hunt qualification ratings to 45 and 77 respectively.

    2007 saw the value of bloodstock sales at public auction in Ireland drop by 7% from the record levels of €189.4m in 2006.

    Brian Kavanagh concluded:- “We are pleased to have come through a challenging year with positive results across so many areas and this gives us great confidence for the coming year and the longer-term prospects for the industry. It is clear that a continued programme of investment in racecourse facilities will be necessary to ensure further growth in attendances.”