I had the pleasure of lecturing the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBA class at the University of Liverpool this week. We discussed funding horse racing in Ireland and the possible consequences of Brexit. The group came from a variety of industry stakeholders throughout these islands.
At a general level, horse racing in Ireland is in relatively good health. According to Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), Irish bloodstock sold at public auction was to the value of €161.5m last year. While racecourse attendances continued to decline in 2018, large racing festivals are starting to attract record attendances again in recovery-Ireland. Prize-money also grew by 3.9% to €63.5m in 2018. it should be noted, more than 60% of this is sourced from budgetary support.
While this annual report is largely positive, Brexit cases a shadow over the (very near) future. The eight "No" votes last night in the UK Parliament means a hard Brexit in early April remains a possibility.
30 years of progress within Irish racing could be undone over night. Chief concerns are centred on the Irish bloodstock industry, animal welfare and the tripartite agreement between Ireland, Britain and France. It remains to be seen how this will be affected in the weeks ahead and it should come as a concern that Aintree 2019 might be the last as we currently know it.
While Irish racing successes in Britain have probably never been as obvious, the next two weeks will dictate if this could continue into the future, or come to a crashing halt.