National Stud records loss for first time in years due to pandemic

Kildare State-owned stud and tourist attraction had losses of €0.4m last year

A mare and foal at sunrise at the Irish National Stud and Gardens, in Tully, Co Kildare.

A mare and foal at sunrise at the Irish National Stud and Gardens, in Tully, Co Kildare.


The Irish National Stud recorded a loss for the first time in many years in 2020 as its business was badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, despite an increase in revenue from stud fees.

The company’s latest annual report shows the State-owned stud and tourist attraction outside Kildare town had losses of €0.4 million last year compared with pre-tax profits of €0.8 million in 2019.

The reversal in the Irish National Stud’s financial performance was largely due to a cash deficit of €1.8 million from its operations as well as a depreciation charge of €1.2 million.

Overall group revenue was down 7 per cent to €6.7 million but the figure included an increase of €0.5 million in stud fees to €3.5 million.

However, tourism-related activities, which include the Japanese Gardens, were severely affected by Covid-19 restrictions with income down 62 per cent to €0.5 million – compared with €1.4 million in 2019.

Commenting on the results, Irish National Stud chairman Matt Dempsey said it was an extremely challenging environment for the business given the external threats of Brexit and Covid-19.

“It [2020] was an extraordinary year for everyone and it was no different at the Irish National Stud,” said Mr Dempsey.

However, he said it was a testament to the Government’s support for the breeding industry that the company had posted strong figures on its stud activity with the number of mares foaling, boarding and being covered all increasing last year.

Invincible Spirit

The company’s most famous but ageing “stud” – Invincible Spirit – continued to make a significant contribution to the company’s profits.

Mr Dempsey said the famous stallion covered another exceptional book of mares last year when he commanded a cover fee of €100,000 – down from a peak of €120,000 in 2019.

Invincible Spirit has now sired a total of 20 top-level winners with two more Group 1 winners added to his record during 2020.

The stallion, which the Irish National Stud hopes will become a long-term replacement for Invincible Spirit, also had a successful first year at stud.

Phoenix of Span, the former Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, covered 148 mares from some of the world’s most illustrious breeders last year.

“With a strong syndicate and sustained support, hopes are very high that he can become a top-class stallion,” said Mr Dempsey.

He said last year had also proved a difficult trading environment as no sales were conducted in the Republic and all yearlings had to travel to the UK to be sold.

The highest price received for a yearling was €400,000 for an Invincible Spirit colt out of Aimhirgin Lass, which was purchased by Kentucky-based bloodstock agent, Ben McElroy.

A total of 270 foals were born at the stud last year – up from 219 in 2019.

The Irish National Stud, which recently announced a €3.2 million visitor attraction with a virtual racecourse experience, expressed hope that a rebound in its tourism business would be “equally as swift as the downturn”.