Racecourse capital development, prizemoney, equine welfare, integrity, promotion and point-to-points the focus of HRI’s 2019 budget.
The new Curragh racecourse is to open in April with prizemoney to reach €66.1 million. Therre will be an increased allocation to integrity services, funding allocation for equine welfare projects, and an industry-wide graduate programme among the education initiatives.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI)’s budget for 2019, approved at its Board meeting on Monday 10th December, prioritises racecourse capital development, prizemoney, integrity and equine welfare, industry training and education, broadening the interest of the sport, and point-to-points.
Prizemoney will rise by €2.9 million, to a figure of €66.1 million, with the additional commitment spread across some of Ireland’s big racing festivals as well as increases to feature races at 20 of Ireland’s Grade 2 and Grade 3 racetracks. The opening of the redeveloped Curragh Racecourse will see prizemoney increases for some of its feature races in 2019.
Equine welfare and employee development are two priorities in the budget, with new lifetime traceability for thoroughbreds to be introduced for the 2019 foal crop.
Next year, HRI will be working closely with Government and with industry stakeholders to advance the development of a state-of-the-art Irish Equine Centre in Johnstown, County Kildare. An industry-wide graduate programme is among the measures funded to assist those seeking to work in the industry and those seeking employees.
2019 will also see Irish racing embark on a television advertising campaign for the first time in over a decade.
Point-to-points will see increased prizemoney by 13% in races for older horse races.
Prizemoney Levels and Distribution
HRI will increase prizemoney by €2.9 million next year from a forecast €63.2 million in 2018 to €66.1 million in 2019. In a competitive international environment, this is important for Ireland to continue to attract owners with horses in training in Ireland.
The reopening of the redeveloped Curragh will be marked by a prize-money uplift for some of its feature races, as will Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival, the Punchestown and Galway Festivals. The racecourses will contribute to these increases through higher levels of sponsorship.
A further €500,000 will be distributed among 20 Grade 2 and Grade 3 racecourses to be used to further enhance the prizemoney around their feature races. This initiative will be of particular benefit to the smaller racecourses in helping to promote their race days and will enhance values in races which are accessible to the majority of the horse population.
Integrity Services and Equine Welfare.
An allocation of €9.5 million has been approved for integrity services to be provided by the IHRB in 2019. This will feature increased levels of out-of-competition testing, enhancements to the IHRB security function and investment in upgraded I.T. systems. Increased funding has been allocated to equine welfare, including a new foal traceability system.
Broadening interest and appeal of racing
Working with racecourses, HRI will conduct a comprehensive advertising and marketing campaign in 2019, including a return to TV advertising for the first time in over 10 years. The roll-out of free WiFi, which commenced in 2018 at Leopardstown, Naas, Fairyhouse, Ballinrobe, Navan and Cork, will continue in 2019 when 16 further racetracks will complete their WiFi implementation, bringing with it improvements to racegoer experience.
Industry Training and Education
An allocation of €1.6 million has been approved for industry training and development, with the focus on core skills within the RACE training centre as well as industry employment support programmes. The allocation includes funds for specific education and training initiatives, including the development of an industry-wide graduate programme and more tailored programmes to support attracting people into employment in the industry. There is also funding committed to a series of regional events hosted with second-level education guidance counsellors, and a further expansion of the equine industry information days.
Investment has once again been committed to the recruitment and retention of owners in Ireland, with further funding in 2019 for the trainer marketing support scheme and a new loyalty scheme. The HRI Ownership Department will continue to work with all stakeholders on improving the experience for owners in Ireland, with particular focus on racecourse facilities and the additional benefits attached to racehorse ownership. The aim is to increase the pool of owners for all levels of the industry, building on the strong growth in new owners to date in 2018.
The vital role the point-to-point sector plays is acknowledged with a further increase in prizemoney for 2019. Prizemoney for point-to-points will increase by 13% in 2019, driven by enhanced prizemoney for races for older horses, with a further 6% prizemoney increase due to an additional nine fixtures scheduled for next year. The total budget funding for point-to-points, including integrity services provided by the IHRB, will come to €2.4 million in 2019.
Grants of €1.32 million and €1.095 million were approved for the Irish Equine Centre and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing respectively, both of which also receive funds from the Thoroughbred Foal Levy (€900,000 and €450,000). A further €100,000 of funding from the Foal Levy was to support the funding of a Mass Spectrometer, which will improve the forensic examination of samples at the Irish Equine Centre. The funding for Irish Thoroughbred Marketing is particularly important as 2019 will see the United Kingdom exit from the EU.
2018 saw the completion of a number of capital projects across Irish racecourses and 2019 will see further activity in this area.
April will see the opening of the redeveloped Curragh Racecourse which will ensure that customer facilities at the headquarters of flat racing in Ireland will match the quality of the racetrack and the race programme there.
As Dublin’s only racecourse, Leopardstown plays a vital role in the Irish racing programme staging Grade 1 action on both the flat and national hunt. Ground was broken on the latest phase of Leopardstown’s redevelopment programme in 2018 and next year will see this €18 million project advance towards completion.
Capital projects at Bellewstown, Clonmel, Dundalk, Killarney, Listowel, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Tramore and Wexford Racecourses are also due to be completed next year.
Discussions on further exciting developments are ongoing with a number of racecourses, while 2019 will see the conclusion of the grant scheme for drainage, irrigation and other track development works which will provide funding of €2.3m of works circa €6.8m. These works, the majority of which are funded by the racecourses, are vital for the continuation of racing and the improvement of the quality of racing surfaces around the country.
1. Starting Stalls/further capital investment
An allocation has been made for the purchase of new starting stalls for Cork Racecourse, which will complete the replacement of the starting stalls at all racecourses in Ireland which host Flat meetings. Cork will also see the opening of its new seven-furlong straight track next summer, while 2019 will also see the continued development of HRI’s in-house on-line racing administration system (RAS) including new phases around digitised race planning and handicapping.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “While there is much to look forward to for Irish racing in 2019, there are headwinds also, not least with Brexit. In 2019 HRI will therefore invest in areas which will deliver sustainable growth for the industry.
“The completion of the Curragh redevelopment will give Irish flat racing the flagship it deserves and the new facilities will bear favourable comparison with other international racecourses.
“The challenge of Brexit is substantial and the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union in March will leave Ireland more isolated. It is important therefore to ensure that Irish prizemoney is competitive internationally and increases have been spread throughout the country.
“The increased allocation to integrity services is welcome and will focus on critical areas such as drug testing, security and IT systems. HRI is working closely with the IHRB to deliver efficient administration and regulation to the industry.
“Staff and equine welfare will also be high priorities and 2019 sees an increased financial allocation to these areas. There are also increases in funding for point to point racing, ownership and the Irish Equine Centre.”
Brian Kavanagh added: “We are grateful to Minister Creed and his team in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for the support which they have shown to our industry, which the Deloitte Report showed was worth €1.8bn per annum to the economy. 2019 will see the launch of the next Strategic Plan for the industry and HRI looks forward to working with industry stakeholders, as well as Minister Creed and his team, to deliver the plan and increase the yield which our sector provides.”