The opening of the all weather track at Dundalk and continued increases in attendances at race meetings and betting across all outlets highlighted another good year for Irish racing in 2007.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) said: '2007 was another very good year for Irish racing on the track and a year of significant growth for horse race betting – particularly on the Tote.'
Welcoming increases in sponsorship and prize money, Mr Kavanagh thanked new and existing sponsors for 'seeing the value and impact which horse racing has in reaching wide and powerful audiences.'
He went on to emphasise that HRI will continue to promote quality racing and warned that 'horses were currently being produced for which there would be no races.'
Brian Kavanagh congratulated Irish Trainers, Owners and Jockeys on another impressive year. Irish runners again enjoyed major National Hunt success in England, highlighted by Sublimity’s Champion Hurdle victory and Silver Birch’s Aintree Grand National win, the sixth time in nine years that the World’s most famous steeplechase has been claimed by an Irish raider.
Further victories at Grade 1 level for Ebaziyan, Cork All Star and Al Eile at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals ensured Ireland had plenty to celebrate.
On the Flat, Aidan O’Brien claimed the British Trainer’s title for the third time, sending out Dylan Thomas, Peeping Fawn, Excellent Art, Scorpion, Yeats and Listen to achieve Group 1 successes during the year.
Jim Bolger, with dual 1,000 Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo and European Champion Two-year-old New Approach, and Tommy Stack, with Myboycharlie and Alexander Tango, also tasted victory at the highest level on foreign soil, while nine of the 12 domestic Group 1 races were kept at home.
Attendances at Irish race meetings reached 1.46 million in 2007, marginally ahead of 2006. Total fixtures increased from 319 to 333 (311 in Republic of Ireland). This marginal increase in attendance, while falling short of expectations set by a very strong first half performance came against the background of a year that will be remembered for record breaking rainfall across the summer.
Kavanagh commented: 'Our major Festivals in the Spring at Punchestown (+7%) and Fairyhouse (+13%) suggested the start of another record breaking year but the 49 consecutive days of rain in June and July, followed by a very wet August kept a lot of racegoers away from meetings during the summer. Despite this, the year still recorded an increase of nearly 1% compared to 2006.'
The betting market was up significantly. Betting on Irish racing in 2007 was healthy with total betting up 7.6% at €282 million. The Tote benefited from increased overseas co-mingling with overall turnover jumping by 23% to just over €61 million.
Ireland’s first all-weather track opened at Dundalk in September and despite an ongoing dispute between the racecourse and the INBA (Irish National Bookmakers Association), the initial experience of the facilities and evening floodlit racing has been universally positive.
Racegoers, trainers and jockeys have all commented on the quality of the track, the racing programme and the facilities which are now on offer.
Brian Kavanagh commented: 'Prize-money and sponsorship are critical elements of the racing economy and ensure the health of the domestic racing scene.
In 2007 these vital areas recorded large increases - prize-money grew to €59.6 million (+8.3%) while sponsorship rose to €9.2 million (+13%).
The bulk of the growth in prize-money was on the Flat and of course, one of the most important flat races of the year, The Irish Derby, is seeking a new sponsor from 2008.'
Irish Thoroughbred Racing Industry Statistics
Year ended 31st December 2007
Total Fixtures: (incl. N.I.)
Up 4.3% from 319 to 333
Total Fixtures, R.O.I. only
Up 4.7% from 297 to 311
Point to Point Fixtures:
Up 5% from 102 to 107
Number Of Races
Up 5.6% from 2,268 to 2,397
Total Prize Money (Incl Point to Point)
Up 8.3% from €55m to €59.6m
Up 1% from €28.2m to €28.5m
Up 15% from €26.8m to €31m
Total Number Of Runners: Up 8.5% from 31,588 to 34,291
Total Betting from On-Course: (Tote, On-course Bookmakers & On-Course SP Shops)
Up 7.6% from €261.9m to €282m
Tote Betting Up 23% from €49.6m to €61.3m *
Up 4% from €197.3m to €205m
On-Course SP Shops
Up 5.3% from €15m to €15.8m
Up 13% from €8.1m to €9.2m +
Total Number of Horses in Training
Up 9.7% from 11,109 to 12,188
Up 0.8% from 1,447,245 to 1,458,932
Bloodstock Sales at Public Auction
Down 7% from €189.4m to €176.5m
* Tote figures experienced a significant increase due to increased co-mingling from the UK, At The Races & PMU
2007 figures include an increase of €800k in the prize fund for the Goffs Millions Races