Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has revealed its 2021 year-end figures which reported an on-course betting bookmaker turnover of €12.9m, showing an increase of 67.5% on the previous year.
Results suggest that the industry has ‘bounced back from a difficult 2020’, with most figures far ahead of both the previous 12 months and the pre-pandemic figures of 2019.
Suzanne Eade, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, commented: “So many of the figures announced today show a remarkable resilience in the horse racing and breeding industries. The figures for the numbers of horses-in-training have jumped by over 14% year-on-year at a time when attendance of owners at race meetings was severely curtailed.
“That support from owners is vital, placing the industry on a secure footing and reflecting favourably on levels of employment across the industry and the wider economic activity that brings. It is hugely encouraging that all categories of ownership have grown and a record owner retention rate is a terrific vote of confidence in the industry.”
To put matters in perspective, HRI stated that retail closures of licenced betting offices in Ireland and the UK negatively impacted overall betting and Tote figures during COVID-19.
In 2020, a number of the major horse sales were severely disrupted, deferred or relocated, but bloodstock sales at public auction was reported to have risen by 71.3% to €182.8m.
“Irish Bloodstock sales were hit very badly in 2020 but last year’s figures for horses sold at public auction improved greatly with a succession of sales performing well. There was a vibrant trade at the Irish store sales and buyers from 22 countries invested at Irish yearling sales, with Irish-foaled horses sold to 31 countries in all,” Eade added.
In contrast in 2021 , the ownership figures also rose by 20.1% to 4,901, with owner retention at 80.7%. The number of new owners registered in 2021 were 1,062, which is a rise of 36.1% from the previous year, with the number of horses-in-training in Ireland up 14.4%.
The growth in ownership and horses-in-training led to an increased demand for opportunities to run during 2021, with 14 extra fixtures being added to the schedule. But even with these extra meetings and races, the report detailed a ‘significant uplift’ in the number of eliminations.
In terms of attendance, although there was a record number of fixtures and races held in 2021, the public was not allowed into the venues in the first half of the year. 500 people became the limit from July to early September while racecourses operated at 50% capacity for the remainder of the year.
Finally, the total prize money for the competition got boosted back up to €61.82m, rising from €50.68m in 2020. £10.85 million of this was won in the UK by Irish-trained horses.