2018 Irish Thoroughbred Industry Statistics

Number of new owners rise sharply in 2018

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
2018 Industry Stats

Leopardstown 26.12.2018 Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) today announced the 2018 Irish horse racing and breeding industry figures which confirmed a continuing trend towards racehorse ownership in Ireland.

New owner registrations were up 16.2% year-on-year with almost 800 new owners registering with Horse Racing Ireland. This contributed to another increase in horses-in-training in the country.

On the track 2018 was a successful year for Irish racing with 17 Irish-trained winners at the Cheltenham Festival and Irish-trained horses filling five of the first six places in the Aintree Grand National, including the winner Tiger Roll. On the Flat, Aidan O’Brien won three of the five English Classics.

The industry continued to perform well, though bloodstock sales struggled to keep pace with recent strong returns, with Brexit uncertainty clearly impacting investment. Accordingly the gains made in 2017 were reversed in 2018, becoming the first time in nine years that bloodstock sales at public auction in Ireland did not post an increase. 

Commercial race sponsorship continued to rise strongly, growing by another 5.3% in 2018, while Irish European Breeders Fund (EBF) support grew by 11.1%.  

Horses-in-Training and Ownership


New Owners up 16.2% from 686 to 797
Total Owners up 3.5% from 3,687 to 3,817 
Horses-in-Training  up 2.4% from 8,488 to 8,688


HRI Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, said:


“Increasing ownership was one of the main priorities for Horse Racing Ireland in 2018 so it is pleasing to see that strategy pay off with significant increases in the number of new owners, total owners and the consequent increase in horses-in-training. This will be felt by trainers all over the country with syndicate ownership rising 33% year-on-year. Owner retention is over 73%, the highest rate it has been since 2007.


“The rise in owners is reflected in an increase in horses-in-training and increases in entries and runners for both Flat and National Hunt racing. Unseasonal quick ground this winter has impacted on the number of National Hunt runners (down 3.3%) but on the Flat it was an increase of 3.7% year-on-year.”


2018 Sales

Bloodstock Sales at Public Auction  down 8% from €175.6m to €161.5m
Export Sales at Public Auction down 1.9% from €268.1m to €263.1m
Number of countries Irish-foaled horses sold to up 6.4% from 31 to 33


Brian Kavanagh said:


“While the market for Irish-bred National Hunt horses made gains again in 2018 and showed a 3% increase, the 2018 sales cycle was a very challenging one for vendors, particularly those selling Flat horses. It meant that the gains made in 2017 across the spectrum of sales were reversed in 2018 with the uncertainty created by Brexit the biggest of a number of factors. Irish-bred horses continued to succeed at the highest levels internationally and the value of Irish-foaled exports sold at public auction was €263.1m. Encouragingly, the attraction of Irish-foaled horses to international buyers was confirmed with Irish-foaled horses sold through auction exported to 33 countries. This is a tribute to the quality of the Irish horse and its global reputation for excellence.”


2018 Attendances and Fixtures

Total Attendances down 0.5% from 1.281m to 1.274m
Attendances July-December up 0.2% from 761,856 to 763,692


Brian Kavanagh said:


“Racecourse attendances rallied strongly in the second half of the year after a weather-disrupted set of figures for the first six months. The ‘Beast from the East’ led to almost unprecedented cancellations and rescheduled meetings in spring, with March attendance figures alone down 30% year-on-year for that month.

“Attendances recovered from mid-summer on, with the World Cup reported to have only a marginal effect on a number of fixtures.

“2019 will be a very exciting one for racegoers with the newly redeveloped Curragh Racecourse opening for business in April. We will also continue our roll-out of the Racecourse Free WiFi scheme, the biggest WiFi infrastructural project in Irish sport. Already free WiFi is available at six racecourses with at least another 16 expected to complete their projects and go online in 2019, further enhancing the on-course experience and optimising ticketing options for both racegoers and racecourses.”

2018 Prizemoney and Sponsorship

Prizemoney up 3.9% from €61.1m to €63.5m
Commercial Sponsorship up 5.3% from €4.94m to €5.2m
EBF Sponsorship up 11.1% from €1.98m to €2.2m


Brian Kavanagh said:


“Prizemoney grew by 3.9% in 2018 to €63.5m and a further increase of €2.9m is budgeted for 2019.  The international environment has rarely been as competitive and prizemoney remains one of the key factors in attracting owners to have horses in training in Ireland. The newly developed Curragh Racecourse will see a prizemoney uplift for some of its flagship races as will the Dublin Racing Festival this coming weekend, and the festival meetings at Punchestown and Galway. Twenty Grade 2 and Grade 3 racecourses will also share €500,000 to enhance the value of their feature races, races that are typically accessible to the majority of the horse population.  

“Most encouragingly, the significant growth in commercial sponsorship in 2016 and 2017 continued into 2018, a trend that clearly shows confidence in horse racing’s appeal as an advertising and promotional vehicle for business.

“The continued support of the Irish European Breeders’ Fund is greatly appreciated and the contribution of their Fund to prizemoney levels in 2019 rose by another 11.1%.”

Entries and Runners


Flat Entries up 5% from 29,841 to 31,331
National Hunt Entries up 1.6% from 31,904 to 32,405
Total Entries  up 3.2% from 61,745 to 63,736
Flat Runners up 3.7% from 13,529 to 14,034
National Hunt Runners down 3.3% from 16,407 to 15,859
Individual winners up 4.6% from 1,821 to 1,904


2018 Betting

Total Tote Betting                       down 33.3% from €103.8m to €69.2m


On-Course Betting

Bookmaker Betting (ring) down 11% from €61.6m to €54.8
On-Course SP Shops up 1% from €9.9m to €10m
On-Course Tote Betting down 7.7% from €11.6m to €10.7m
Total On-Course Betting down 9.1% from €83.1m to €75.5m


Brian Kavanagh said:


“2018 was a challenging year for Tote Ireland and for all on-course betting operators. In total, Tote betting was down 33.3% or €34.6m, with the majority of this, €33.1m, accounted for by a significant dip in money bet off-course into Irish pools. As flagged up this time last year, a decision by the Israeli Government to ban betting was going to have a severe impact on the Irish pools and UK pools and unfortunately this has come to pass.

"Overall the downward trend in on-course betting continues and reflects the changing nature of the betting market.  Bookmakers and the Association of Irish Racecourses are examining ways in which on-course bookmaker betting can recover and be sustained. 

“Horse Racing Ireland is undertaking a strategic review of Tote Ireland and considering a number of future options in order to maximise its return to Irish racing.”

Brian Kavanagh continued:

“Horse racing generates a very significant return to the rural economy in Ireland and positive international profile for our country – that contribution has been independently valued at €1.84bn, supporting directly and indirectly, almost 29,000 jobs. None of this success could be achieved without the support provided by Government through the Horse and Greyhound Fund.  

“But, in Brexit, with the uncertainty it has caused and the difficulties it has the potential to create, we are facing a formidable challenge.

“It is always worth bearing in mind that, despite our size, we are the third biggest producers of thoroughbred foals in the world. Naturally, this means that we are significant exporters and 80% of those exports go to Britain. The challenges in terms of movement of animals, customs and tariffs, and potential protectionism that Brexit could visit upon us, could have detrimental consequences.

“Throughout the Brexit process we have been working closely with our international racing partners, including in Britain and France, and politicians and officials in Dublin and in Brussels, and we will continue to do so on behalf of the industry.

“Away from Brexit we continue to hold great ambitions for the racing and breeding sector, and the 2018 success in areas around ownership, horses-in-training and the continued support of commercial partners, is a solid foundation on which to build more growth in 2019.”

2018 Irish Thoroughbred Racing Industry Statistics 

Bloodstock sales at public auction €161.5m €175.6m (8%)
Value of Irish-foaled exported horses sold through  auction  €263.1m  €268.1m  (1.9%)

Number of countries to which Irish-foaled

horses sold through auction were exported

33 31 6.4%
Fixtures 363 357 1.7%
Races 2,644 2,606 1.4%
Total Entries
Flat Entries
National Hunt Entries










Eliminations 4,553 4,666 (2.4%)
Total runners
Flat Runners
National Hunt Runners










Individual runners 7,066 7,000 0.9%
Individual winners 1,904 1,821 4.6%
Individual placed horses 4,318 4,224 2.2%
Field sizes 11.3 11.5 (1.7%)
Total horses-in-training 8,688 8,488 2.4%
Average horses-in-training 4,206 4,181 0.6%
Total owners 3,817 3,687 3.5%
New owners 797 686 16.2%
Total Prizemoney €63.5m €61.1m 3.9%
Prizemoney won in UK by Irish-trained horses £13.62m £13.04m 4.4%
Prizemoney won in rest of world by Irish-trained horses €6.88m €11.48m (40.1%)
Commercial sponsorship €5.2m €4.94m 5.3%
EBF sponsorship €2.2m €1.98m 11.1%
Total attendances 1.274m 1.281m (0.5%)
Average attendance 3,509 3,589 (2.2%)
Attendance July to December 763,692 761,856 0.2%
*Off-Course Betting Duty Receipts €52.3 €52.2m 0.2%
Total on-course betting (incl. Tote) €75.5m €83.1m (9.1%)
On-course bookmaker betting€64.8m €71.5m (9.4%)
> Betting ring €54.8m €61.6m (11%)
> On-course SP shops €10m €9.9m 1%
Total Tote betting €69.2m €103.8m (33.3%)
> On-course Tote €10.7m €11.6m (7.7%)
> Off-course Tote (Irish pools) €53.1m €86.2m (38.4%)
> Off-course Tote (International pools) €5.4m €6.0m (10%)

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

Away from Brexit we continue to hold great ambitions for the racing and breeding sector, and the 2018 success in areas around ownership, horses-in-training and the continued support of commercial partners, is a solid foundation on which to build more growth in 2019.

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