HRI report demonstrates poor hope for future of horse racing in Ireland

Irish Horse

Irish HorseSome more evidence to support the idea of horse racing becoming an extinct sport, Horse Racing Ireland’s released its 2011 report yesterday revealing a 10-year low in the average number of horses training in the country.

In the report, horse race betting also demonstrated a dramatic drop at 9.2% in on-course bookmaker turnover totalling the tally for 2011 at under €100 million to €97.5 million.

And it gets even worse. There was 8% drop in the total number of owners in Ireland while prize-money of €44.4 million was 3.5 % lower than in 2010.

In a report by the Irish Times yesterday, HRI’s chief executive, Brian Kavanagh, said: “The weakness of the horses in training figure is a cause for real concern as this is the area where rural employment is most affected. This is one of the many challenges which must be addressed in the coming year.”

Kavanagh also noted that the horse racing industry in Ireland has never really recovered from the impacts of the recession and since has received “successive cutbacks” to its budget – 26% in cuts since 2008 to be precise.

“This is a direct consequence of low betting duties and the movement of betting revenues online and off-shore. The negative effect of this on prize-money and investment has had damaging effects throughout the industry. Our prize-money is at its lowest level for 10 years, at a time when other major European racing countries are announcing prize-money increases,” he added.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the sport. Positives in yesterday’s report figures include a 3.3% jump in attendances in Ireland’s racecourses from the year before to €1.24 million, and a rise in bloodstock sales at public auction to €81 million.

Kavanagh explains: “The growth in racecourse attendance is particularly welcome given the pressure that leisure and retail markets generally have been under and I congratulate the racecourses who have worked hard to attract and retain race-goers.

“Strong bloodstock sales overall and growth in the value of exports for Irish-bred horses show that the reputation and value of the Irish thoroughbred remains high and this gives us confidence that this figure will continue to grow,” he concluded.

Also, in the US – the sport has seen it’s first significant increase for three years.

Nevertheless, are these small increases substantial enough to outweigh the dramatic drop in horse race betting recently? Is the sport on its way to becoming extinct? Tell us what you think.