2017 Irish Thoroughbred Industry Statistics

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Runners pass the stands at a sunny Thurles

Runners pass the stands at a sunny Thurles Photo:Patrick McCann

After a year in which Irish-trained horses enjoyed unprecedented success on the track, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) today announced a positive set of 2017 industry figures.  

Nineteen Irish-trained winners at the 2017 Cheltenham festival set the tone for a year of international success, followed by a Melbourne Cup success for 24-year-old trainer Joseph O’Brien, and a world record 28 Group and Grade 1 winners for his father, Aidan.  

The industry continued to perform well, with continued growth across bloodstock sales, race sponsorship, Tote Ireland turnover and entries and runners under both codes.  

Irish bloodstock sales increased for the seventh consecutive year and exports for the seventh consecutive year. Tote Ireland also experienced a year of growth, with turnover up by over 7%. Commercial sponsorship continued its recovery, growing by another 3%, while European Breeders Fund (EBF) support grew by 15.8%.  Total runners in both codes was up 3.5%.  

2017 Sales  

  • Bloodstock Sales at Public Auction in Ireland  up 7% from €164.2m to €175.6m
  • Export Sales at Public Auction down 1.8% from €272.9m to €268.1m  

HRI Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, said: 

“2017 represented a seventh consecutive year of growth in sales, with the value of Irish bloodstock sold at public auction being €175.6m, up 7% on the 2016 figures. Irish-bred horses continued to dominate at the highest levels internationally and the value of Irish-foaled exports sold at public auction was €268.1m, with clients from 31 different countries investing in Irish bloodstock.” 

Entries and Runners

  • Flat Entries                              up 10.4% from 27,035 to 29,841
  • National Hunt Entries                up 2% from 31,281 to 31,904
  • Total Entries                            up 6% from 58,316 to 61,745
  • Flat Runners                            up 5.7% from 12,801 to 13,529
  • National Hunt Runners              up 1.7% from 16,130 to 16,407
  • Total Runners                          up 3.5% from 28,931 to 29,936
  • Average field size                     up 2.6% from 11.2 to 11.5

 Horses-in-Training and Ownership

  • Horses-in-Training                  down 1% from 8,561 to 8,488
  • Active Owners                        up 0.6% from 3,663 to 3,687
  • New Owners                          down 2.7% from 705 to 686      

Brian Kavanagh said: 

“Figures for horses in training, active owners and new owners were on a par with 2016, with small dips for horses in training and new owners, and a small increase in active owners. Encouragingly, these figures confirm the increases in 2016 and the strength of the home-based sales in 2017 points towards growth in 2018 and beyond. 

“Sole owners and partnerships remain the most popular form of ownership in Ireland, however  syndicates continue to take an increasing share with growth of 5% year-on-year.  Registered racing clubs made a significant jump with a 50% increase in the number of clubs active in 2017. 

“The rise in active owners is reflected in increases in  entries and runners for both Flat and National Hunt racing, with the average field size increasing from 11.2 to 11.5 runners overall. In 2017, Flat entries were up by 10.4% and runners by 5.7%, while National Hunt figures also rose, with overall increases in entries (2%) and runners (1.7%).” 

2017 Betting  

  • Total Tote Betting                            up 7.2% from €96.8m to €103.8m  

On-Course Betting  

  • Bookmaker Betting (Ring)                down 5.9% from €65.5m to €61.6
  • On-Course SP Shops                        down 4.8% from €10.4m to €9.9m
  • On-Course Tote Betting                    down 8.7% from €12.7m to €11.6m
  • Total On-Course Betting                   down 6.2% from €88.6m to €83.1m    

Brian Kavanagh said: 

“On-course betting (Tote and Bookmakers) declined by 6.2%, reflecting the continuing challenge being experienced by all on-course operators.  

“In 2017 Tote Ireland saw a seventh successive year of turnover growth. Revenue grew 7.2% from €96.8m to €103.8m in the year. This growth was driven by betting into Irish pools (up 9.5%) and international pools (up 11.1%).

All profits from Tote Ireland’s operation go directly back in to benefit Irish racing and Tote Ireland sponsored races at nine different racecourses in 2017, the highlight being TheTote.com Galway Plate. The loss of business in Israel at the end of 2017 will see an impact on turnover in 2018.”  

2017 Attendances and Fixtures  

  • Total Attendances                                 down 3% from 1.32m to 1.28m
  • Average Attendances                            down 2.8% from 3,692 to 3,589  

Brian Kavanagh said: 

“The attendance figures reflect the reduced numbers at the Curragh, in particular the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and day two of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend. We look forward to the completion of the redevelopment in 2019, when the Curragh  will have facilities to match the world class action on the track.  

“Attendances at the major jumps festivals in the first six months of 2017 were very strong, highlighted by Punchestown’s Spring Festival, which attracted a record attendance of 122,557.”  

2017 Prize-money and Sponsorship  

  • Prize-money                                        up 7.6% from €56.8m to €61.1m
  • Commercial Sponsorship                      up 3% from €4.8m to €4.94m
  • EBF Sponsorship                                  up 15.8% from €1.71m to €1.98m  

Brian Kavanagh said: 

“Prize-money grew by 7.6% to €61.1m with a further increase of €2.2m (3.6%) budgeted for 2018.  HRI remains committed to increasing prize-money to remain competitive with our European counterparts and to attract and retain racehorse owners in Ireland. To that end we increased minimum race values in 2017, with the increases flowing to races where most owners were competing. Competitive options for lower-tier National Hunt horses trialled successfully in the summer of 2017 and will continue into the spring of 2018 and beyond.  

“Despite significant gains in 2016, we saw further growth in commercial sponsorship in 2017.  This upward trend is very encouraging and shows that confidence in horse racing’s appeal as an advertising and promotional vehicle for business is strong.”  

Brian Kavanagh commented:  

“2017 will be committed to the memory as a  stellar year for Irish racing. An extraordinary 19 Irish-trained winners at Cheltenham was a testament to the skill and horsemanship in our industry, as well as the significant investment and trust placed in those skills by owners and breeders.  

“Irish horsemen and women are setting standards, and nowhere was that more evident than in the autumn of 2017 when, after an incredible year, Aidan O’Brien beat Bobby Frankel’s world record for Group and Grade 1 winners trained in a calendar year, establishing a new record of 28 winners. These achievements, as well as Joseph O’Brien’s Melbourne Cup success in November with Rekindling, greatly enhanced the reputation of our racing industry.  

“The sector is facing a series of challenges in the areas of funding, infrastructure, staffing and in particular Brexit and Horse Racing Ireland is engaging with Government, stakeholders and our international counterparts on these matters. We have great ambition to build on the growth and success of 2017 and look forward to engaging with the industry on these plans.”  

Brian Kavanagh concluded:  

“Horse racing generates a very significant return to the rural economy in Ireland and positive international profile for our country. The Sports Business Group at Deloitte, in their report into the Economic Impact of Irish Breeding and Racing 2017, published in September, estimated that the industry contributes €1.84bn to the Irish economy, supporting directly and indirectly, almost 29,000 jobs. Despite our size, we are the third biggest producers of thoroughbred foals in the world and estimates place Ireland only behind the United States as the biggest seller of bloodstock by public auction globally.  

“None of this success could be achieved without the support provided by Government through the Horse and Greyhound Fund which is much appreciated.”     

2017 Irish Thoroughbred Racing Industry Statistics  

Bloodstock sales at public auction €175.6m €164.2m 7%
Value of Irish-foaled exported horses sold through  auction €268.1m €272.9m (1.8%)

Number of countries to which Irish-foaled

horses sold through auction were exported

31 36 (14%)
Fixtures 357 356  
Races 2,606 2,577 1.1%
Total Entries
Flat Entries
National Hunt Entries










Eliminations 4,666 3,266 43%
Total runners
Flat Runners
National Hunt Runners










Individual runners 7,000 7,014  
Individual winners 1,821 1,806 1%
Individual placed horses 4,224 4,013 5.2%
Field sizes 11.5 11.2 2.6%
Total horses-in-training 8,488 8,561 (1%)
Average horses-in-training 4,181 4,154 0.6%
Total owners 3,687 3663 0.6%
New owners 686 705 (2.7%)
Total Prize-Money €61.1m €56.8m 7.6%
Prize-money won in UK by Irish-trained horses £13.04m £15.33m (15%)
Prize-money won in rest of world by Irish-trained horses €11.48m €10.72m 7.1%
Commercial sponsorship €4.94m €4.8m 3%
EBF sponsorship €1.98m €1.71m 15.8%
Total attendances 1.28m 1.32m (3%)
Average attendance 3,589 3,692 (2.8%)
*Off-Course Betting Duty Receipts €52.2m €50.7m 3%
Total on-course betting (incl. Tote) €83.1m €88.6m (6.2%)
On-course bookmaker betting €71.5m €75.9m (5.8%)  
> Betting ring €61.6m €65.5m (5.9%)
> On-course SP shops €9.9m €10.4m (4.8%)
Total Tote betting €103.8m €96.8m 7.2%
> On-course Tote €11.6m €12.7m (8.7%)
> Off-course Tote (Irish pools) €86.2m €78.7m 9.5%
> Off-course Tote (International pools) €6.0m €5.4m 11.1%


*As betting duty is collected quarterly in arrears, this provision does not reflect the calendar year


2017 represented a seventh consecutive year of growth in sales, with the value of Irish bloodstock sold at public auction being €175.6m, up 7% on the 2016 figures. Irish-bred horses continued to dominate at the highest levels internationally and the value of Irish-foaled exports sold at public auction was €268.1m, with clients from 31 different countries investing in Irish bloodstock.

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