I was saddened recently when I heard the news that former Irish Champion jockey Charlie Swan has decided to retire from training at the end of the month. Swan (48) took out his training licence in 1998 and enjoyed notable success with Offshore Account and One Cool Cookie. I will always fondly remember him as the partner of the mighty Istabraq, the greatest hurdler I ever saw.
This week Charlie was joined by Joanna Morgan. The first female jockey to ride professionally at Royal Ascot, Morgan called it a day this week having taken out her training licence in 1997.
Both Swan and Morgan cite rising costs as the reason for opting to leave the sport they love. Writing in the Irish Independent on Monday, Richard Forristal was quite critical of the horse racing industry. His piece "HRI Spin Conceals Real Truth Of Stats" suggests all is not well within racing circles, despite central authority’s insistence that the sport of kings is on the rise again.
Anyone that follows racing will know that the 2008-2009 financial crash has hit the industry hard. The sport in many ways had come to symbolise Celtic Tiger Ireland. Syndicates, the Galway Races, trips to Cheltenham and beyond. Getting horses entered in races, particularly lower graded ones was an achievement during the mid-2000. The data below illustrates just why Charlie and Joanna have left the game.
This is just one tiny snapshot of the past five years. The Horse Racing Ireland Fact Book provides a wealth of statistics and data for the interested reader and is available free from their website.