Friday, May 19, 2023
FORMER champion jockey and Classic-winning trainer Johnny Murtagh is among prominent Kildare racing figures who has welcomed a new report, based on research carried out by Deloitte, leading advisors to the sports business market, for Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), Ireland’s thoroughbred horse racing sector shows sustained growth across multiple measures.

Curragh based trainer, Johnny Murtagh Photo: INPHO/James Crombie

The sector, including breeding, training, racing, and ancillary activities, delivered €2.46bn to the economy in direct and stimulated expenditure in 2022, up 34% from 2016, and supports a total of 30,350 jobs, an increase of 1,450 in that same period.

With the breeding sector generating revenues of €819m, €264m spent by owners in training and running their horses, and €193m through racegoer spending both on and off course, the sector is providing economic stimulus across the country. Testament to Ireland’s outstanding reputation as a location for breeding and racing is the country’s 2022 position as the second largest territory by value for global public bloodstock sales. With €538m in sales achieved last year, Ireland is second only to the USA.

The attraction of horse racing is also evidenced by attendances at racecourses around the country. Looking at festival attendance in isolation, the top attended festivals in 2022 attracted a combined attendance figure of over half a million people.

The number of owners and horses in training also shows significant resilience. In 2022 there were 4,757 active owner accounts in Ireland, a significant increase from the 2016 figure of 3,663. Deloitte research shows that the active owner accounts in 2022 represented 13,592 individuals and 10,208 horses that were registered in training during the year.

Trainer Johnny Murtagh, whose Fox Covert Stables is on the outskirts of Kildare Town, said: “We have 25 people on the books and that’s just the staff who work for me. That’s not our suppliers like our vets, the shavings, the hay, and the feed companies. Most of our staff and suppliers live locally in the Kildare and Newbridge area so it’s all feeding back into the local area.

“The national figures generated by breeding and racing is worth €2.5 billion to the economy and there are over 30,000 employed – it’s a lot of people and it’s a big number to put back into the economy.”

Suzanne Eade, CEO of HRI, commented: “The figures from the research carried out by Deloitte on behalf of HRI demonstrate the significance of racing and breeding to the rural economy and is testament to decades of consistent Government support.

“Behind the significant economic impact and our global reputation is a hugely skilled workforce, dedicated to the horses in their care. Our industry supports in excess of 30,000 FTEs, 9,400 of those in the core industry, making their living as a direct or indirect result from the racing and breeding industry.

“Racing has a huge impact on the rural economy, none more so than Kildare. A county steeped in racing and breeding tradition – there are 744 breeders and 76 trainers all employing local staff and using local suppliers. The county boasts three racecourses – The Curragh, Naas and Punchestown which in 2022, hosted 64 race meetings, including some of our showcase festivals, attracting 250,000 racegoers.

“We are acutely aware that racing and breeding is a very competitive and mobile industry. We will continue to work with Government and all stakeholders to maintain our competitive advantage and Ireland’s reputation as global leaders at breeding and training racehorses.”

Speaking about the importance of the breeding and racing industry in Kildare, Brian Kavanagh CEO of the Curragh Racecourse, said: “Racing and breeding is one of the biggest industries in Kildare and one of the centres of horse racing and breeding in the country. We have about 750 breeders in County Kildare and 76 trainers, a lot of them concentrated around the Curragh. It’s a huge industry – about 3,000 people employed directly and indirectly in the county, which is a significant number. We have about 1,000 horses trained every day on the gallops at the Curragh and obviously three of the biggest racecourses in the country are based in Kildare.”

Curragh-based trainer, Patrick Harty who has a dual license with his father Eddie, commented: “We’ve got 35 horses in training on the Curragh. It’s a fantastic location, synonymous with racing. We have eight full-time employees, two part-time and three trainees from RACE. I think there are around 75 racehorse trainers in Kildare – most of which have access to the Curragh gallops. There are people employed directly and indirectly through racing, for example for our 35 horses we have a farrier, we have an equine dentist, there is a team of vets, there is even a man that drives around and collects the laundry for the horses.”

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