Horse Racing Ireland announce Budget for 2021

Friday, December 18, 2020

Horse Racing Ireland announce Budget for 2021

  • Minimum prize money level increased to €10,000
  • Strategic capital projects at Equine Centre and new All Weather Track to be further advanced
  • Brexit support scheme for breeding sector to be announced in early 2021
  • Short-term measures announced to counteract twin threat of Covid-19 and Brexit
  • Extra opportunities for horses at all grades with 14 extra fixtures in 2021  

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI)’s budget for 2021, which was approved at its Board meeting on Monday December 14, prioritises the reinstatement of minimum prize money levels, increasing opportunities for horses at all levels, incentives for breeders to meet the challenges posed by both Covid-19 and Brexit and strategic investment in medium and long-term capital projects to secure the growth of the industry and its contribution to the economy.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said:

“The HRI budget for 2021 is set in the context of two lifetime challenges hitting the sector simultaneously and the priority is to shield the industry from the impacts of both Covid-19 and Brexit, while being cognisant of the welfare of our horses and the people that work with them.

“Thanks to the effort of many, the finances of Horse Racing Ireland are stable as we come to the end of one of the most challenging years any of us will ever face.  The Board wishes to acknowledge the effort and sacrifices made within the industry this year and is pleased to announce a progressive budget for 2021 which is aimed at giving some clarity in an uncertain environment. 

“In framing its budget, HRI is following the key objectives set out in our Strategic Plan for the industry 2020-2024 which was launched earlier this year. The quality of the Irish racing and breeding product remains strong and, working within our Plan, I am confident that we can put 2020 behind us and look forward with some optimism.”

  • 1.Capital

HRI welcomed the allocation of funding by the Government in Budget 2021 to the redevelopment of the Irish Equine Centre in Johnstown, County Kildare and looks forward to working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to progress this much needed project which will ensure the highest possible standards of disease prevention and surveillance within the industry.  

Recent events have emphasised the demand for more all weather racing and the budget makes provision to commence the project to construct Ireland’s second All Weather Track at Tipperary, subject to a successful evaluation of the funding position and business case in Quarter 1 2021.   

The budget also provides for a new racecourse grant scheme to enhance stable yard capacity and to ensure the provision of one stable for every horse, an important factor in welfare and disease prevention.

The racecourses and businesses which depend on them such as bookmaking, Tote betting, catering were a sector which came under much pressure.  That said, with Government supports, prudent management and better than expected media rights revenue, Ireland’s racecourses showed their resilience in 2020.

  • HRI provided a series of financial supports to racecourses and will continue to work with racecourses in 2021 on a case-by-case basis to assist them where necessary to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and racing behind closed doors on their business activities.  Budget provision has also been made for a national awareness campaign for the safe return to racegoing when that is deemed permissible by the Government.

  • 2.Prize Money / Opportunities

Budgeted prize money for 2021 will be €60.7m, a reduction from the original 2020 budgeted figure of €68.1m and the 2019 actual figure of €66m. Cuts imposed in response to Covid-19, combined with 40 lost fixtures, will deliver a lower prize money total of €50.9m for this year. 

The key priority to support the grass roots of the industry has been the restoration of the minimum prize money levels to €10,000 per race, while Group and Graded races will see a partial claw back from their significantly reduced 2020 levels in order to maintain the international competitiveness and appeal of the major Irish races under both codes. 

Investment is also being made in increasing opportunities for horses of all grades with 14 extra fixtures already announced for 2021. This takes the overall total to 384, reflecting both the demand for Ireland’s high quality racing product and the number of horses in training in Ireland – which, despite the challenges posed by Covid, has seen a 3.5% increase in 2020. Horses in training remains one of the key drivers of employment in rural areas.

3.        Industry Training and Education

A key focus of the budget is to ensure that educational and training interventions in the racing and breeding industry are relevant, fit for purpose, nationally accessible and support both the equine and people welfare agenda.

HRI will provide funding of €1.6m to industry training and education schemes in 2021, including €700k to RACE.

4.            Ownership

Investment has once again been committed to the recruitment and retention of owners in Ireland in 2021, with further funding for the trainer marketing support scheme and continued development of a CRM system. Extra promotional activity in 2021 will include podcasts and a new owners members club.  The aim is to increase the pool of owners for all levels of the industry, building on the strong growth in recent years.

5.        Industry Grants

Grants of €1.31m and €1.1m in 2021 were approved for the Irish Equine Centre and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing respectively, both of which also receive funds from the Thoroughbred Foal Levy.  

6.        Point-to-Point Racing

There will be an increase of €1,000 per fixture in funding levels for point-to-points for 2021.


7.        Integrity / Racecourse Services

The Board approved a €14m spend for integrity and racecourse services, including provision for an increased level of out of competition drug testing, with further innovations proposed in the recording and broadcasting of racing.

8.        Brexit Supports

While the breeding industry was able to continue to operate at close to normal levels in 2020 and owners stayed loyal to their trainers, most of the major Irish sales were either postponed, cancelled or moved abroad which contributed to a very difficult year for Irish breeders, vendors and sales companies.  

The serious short and medium term risks posed by Brexit to the breeding industry are reflected in the Board’s decision to set aside an amount of €1.3m to support breeders and the sale of Irish-bred horses, with details of a new scheme to be announced early in the New Year.

Irish Thoroughbred Marketing will increase its activities in global markets such as the United States, Australia and the Middle East as well as focussing on encouraging international buyers to safely return to purchasing bloodstock at sales held in Ireland.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland,continued:

“2020 was a year when prudence with the industry’s finances was an absolute necessity and the resilience of our sector enabled many to get through the year.  That said, 2020 was anything but normal and the spectacle of high quality racing in front of empty stands was a depressingly familiar sight. Regrettably this new normal will continue to be the theme as we head into 2021, although recent developments regarding vaccines and travel do allow some cause for optimism regarding a safe return to more normal activity.

“The allocations in Budget 2021 have been guided by the HRI Strategic Plan for the industry with growth in fixtures and prize money targeting increased participation in the sector.  HRI will ensure that our prize money remains internationally competitive and we will announce a new scheme in early 2021 to provide financial support to the breeding industry and assist Irish vendors in the post Brexit environment.  

“The Irish Tote alliance with the UK Tote Group will commence from 1st January 2021 following the issue of a new seven-year Tote licence by the Government in October, while the latest phase of redevelopment of Leopardstown has just been completed, although unfortunately we will not be able to showcase it to the public at the forthcoming Christmas Festival.”