Further Growth for Irish Racing in 2019

Attendances up 3.2% in 2019 | Number of new owners rises by 6.8% | Horses-in-training continue steady increase | Bloodstock sales rebound | On Course Betting up 4.5%

Monday, January 27, 2020
Fairyhouse WEB

Further Growth for Irish Racing in 2019 with attendances up 3.2% Photo: Patrick McCann

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) today released the 2019 Irish horse racing and breeding industry statistics which confirm an increase in people attending racemeetings in Ireland and continued growth in racehorse ownership.

The number of horses returned in training in Ireland – a key driver of employment – rose for the third time in four years, with a 3% increase in 2019.

New owner registrations were up by 6.8% year-on-year with over 850 new racehorse owners registered with Horse Racing Ireland. The bulk of these new registrations (600) were sole owners and partners, as well as 216 new syndicates.

Demand for Irish horses was strong with sales and exports increasing in both value and volume terms.

Commercial race sponsorship and contributions to prizemoney by racecourses continued to rise strongly, growing by another 17.3% in 2019.

Over 1.3 million people attended race meetings in 2019 and on course betting increased by 4.5% year-on-year. 

Perhaps the most significant figure for 2019 however was the fact that, following a series of changes in betting tax arrangements, off course betting duty receipts collected by the government in 2019 amounted to €95m. These receipts, which have grown from €26m in 2014, comfortably exceeded the Exchequer funding provided for horse racing of €67.2m.

HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said:

“Horse racing generates a very significant return to the rural economy in Ireland and a positive international profile for our country. None of this success could be achieved without the support provided by the Government.

“2019 was a good year for Irish racing, however the industry requires long-term certainty of funding to be able to plan strategically, not least in the context of the challenges provided by Brexit.

“The increased revenue from betting tax provides the basis for such a long-term funding mechanism and Horse Racing Ireland will engage actively with the incoming Government in the coming month to achieve this objective.”

 Horses-in-Training and Ownership


New Owners up 6.8% from 797 to 851
Total Owners up 6.4% from 3,817 to 4,061 
Horses-in-Training  up 3% from 8,688 to 8,949


Entries and Runners


Flat Entries up 5.8% from 31,331 to 33,146
National Hunt Entries down 0.1% from 32,405 to 32,369
Total Entries  up 2.8% from 63,736 to 65,515
Flat Runners up 7.2% from 14,034 to 15,038
National Hunt Runners up 3.8% from 15,859 to 16,467
Individual Runners up 5.7% from 7,066 to 7,470


HRI Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, said:

“Increasing ownership and participation is a strategic priority for Horse Racing Ireland and 2019 delivered healthy increases in the number of new and total owners and, consequently, the number of horses-in-training.


“It was very positive to see 216 new syndicates registering with Horse Racing Ireland in 2019. Our analysis shows that an average syndicate has eight members and the syndicate model is a cost-effective and fun way for people to get involved in horse ownership. 

“Further analysis has shown that these 216 new syndicates have horses in training with 110 different trainers and it is encouraging that the increases we are seeing in racehorse ownership are being felt all over the country.  

“The rise in owners was reflected in an increase in horses-in-training, both for the number of individual runners in 2019 (5.7%) and for the number of total runners on the track (5.4%).

“The Ownership Department in Horse Racing Ireland continues to work closely with the racecourses to ensure that racehorse owners in Ireland have a good experience. We need to keep those improvements going and ensure that prizemoney and minimum race values remain competitive. Owner retention (i.e. those active for two consecutive years) in 2019 was 75%, the highest rate it has been since 2007, so the strides made in owner experience and the commitment to prizemoney are paying off.”


2019 Attendances


Total Attendances up 3.2% from 1.274m to 1.315m


A successful Christmas period brought the total number of racegoers for the year to just over 1.3m.


Brian Kavanagh said:
“Attendances in 2019 were strong and the popularity of racing as a spectator sport was backed up by a 3.2% increase year-on-year. For the first time in a decade in 2019 Horse Racing Ireland returned with a television advertising campaign and that has been warmly received.

“With the assistance of various Horse Racing Ireland capital development schemes, our racecourses have invested strongly in upgrading facilities. As well as the obvious contribution this makes to local economies, it has also served to make racecourses more modern and comfortable for racegoers.  There remains much to do however, and Horse Racing Ireland will continue to work hard on ensuring the best possible customer experience.  This year will see the completion of the roll-out of the Racecourse Free WiFi scheme.”


2019 Sales


Bloodstock Sales at public auction up 2.4% from €161.5m to €165.3m
Value of Irish-foaled exported horses sold through auction up 6.1% from €263.1m to €279.1m
Number of countries Irish-foaled horses sold to Up 1 from 31 to 32


Brian Kavanagh said:

“On the track, Irish-bred horses continued to succeed at the highest levels internationally and the value of Irish-foaled exports in 2019 was up by over 6% to €279.1m. Bloodstock sales at public auction also posted an increase year-on-year, by 2.4% to €165.3m.

“These figures are all the more welcome given the damaging uncertainty in the market created by Brexit.  The hope is that with certainty creeping into the Brexit process for the time being anyway, the gains made in 2019 can be replicated and built upon in 2020.

“Encouragingly, there is a continuing attraction of Irish-foaled horses to international buyers.  As well as the increased sales figures, we see confirmation of this with the fact that Irish-foaled horses sold through auction were exported to 32 countries. The horses themselves are their best advertisement and this statistic is a tribute to the quality of the Irish horse and its global reputation for excellence.”

2019 Prizemoney and Sponsorship


Prizemoney up 4% from €63.5m to €66.06m
Commercial Sponsorship up 17.3% from €5.2m to €6.1m
EBF Sponsorship down 0.5% from €2.2m to €2.19m


Brian Kavanagh said:

“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.

“Prizemoney grew by 4% in 2019 to €66.06m.  There will be a further slight increase to €68m in 2020, but we want to do more.

“Commercial sponsorship and racecourse contributions to prizemoney continued in a strong upward trend. Increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018 have been followed by a significant rise last year with commercial sponsorship and racecourse contributions to prizemoney up by 17.3% from €5.2m to €6.1m.” 

“One area of prizemoney policy which worked well in 2019 was the introduction of a new €500,000 fund between twenty Grade 2 and Grade 3 racecourses to help increase the value of their feature races. These increases enhanced the quality of feature racedays at many of our smaller, vibrant racecourses around the country. 

2019 Betting


Total Tote Betting                       down 13% from €69.2m to €60.2m


On-Course Betting


Bookmaker Betting (ring) up 6.6% from €54.8m to €58.4m
On-Course SP Shops down 1% from €10m to €9.9m
On-Course Tote Betting down 0.9% from €10.7m to €10.6m
Total On-Course Betting (incl Tote) up 4.5% from €75.5m to €78.9m

Brian Kavanagh said:


“It was very encouraging to see the betting ring return a 6.6% increase year-on-year. Obviously increased attendances mean more potential customers for on-course bookmakers, but it is clear also that people see the on-course bookmakers as a part of the atmosphere of a day at the races and enjoy the service and interaction that goes along with having a bet with them and with the Tote at the races. While changing habits and technological advances mean that the ring isn’t back to where it once was, this is a positive development.

“2019 was another challenging year for Tote Ireland. While on course turnover fell by just 1%, Tote betting overall was down 13% (or €9m), the majority of this accounted for by a significant dip in international money bet off-course into Irish pools. 

 “The Board of Horse Racing Ireland received a full presentation on future options for Tote Ireland. All options are being considered and we will revert with a recommended position in the coming months. The decision will reflect what we believe is the best option for Irish racing.

“It is worth noting that total off-course betting receipts collected by the Government rose 81.6% in 2019, reflecting a 1% rise in the rate of betting tax. This means that, for the first time, the €95m collected in betting tax receipts significantly exceeded the Exchequer funding for horse racing.”


2019 was a good year for Irish racing, however the industry requires long-term certainty of funding to be able to plan strategically, not least in the context of the challenges provided by Brexit.

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