Racehorse breeders warn of Brexit damage to €1.84bn industry

More than 3,500 attend first Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association meeting

The Irish-bred Definitly Red, which is now trained in England,  at Cheltenham  at the weekend. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

The Irish-bred Definitly Red, which is now trained in England, at Cheltenham at the weekend. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

 

Racehorse breeders fear their €1.84 billion industry will suffer in any fallout from Brexit, a seminar heard at the weekend.

More than 3,500 people attended the first Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) at Goff’s in Kill, Co Kildare.

At a seminar tackling the industry’s future, key figures, including Gigginstown House Stud manager Eddie O’Leary, warned that the business faces destruction if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal.

Around two-thirds of all horses bred in Ireland are exported to Britain. Mr O’Leary, brother and racing manager to Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, pointed out that up to 90 per cent of horses at some sales in Britain are Irish bred.

He argued that breeders and stud farms might have to set up satellite operations in the UK to circumvent tariffs and barriers should Britain exit the customs union and single market.

Joe Foley, manager of Ballyhane Stud, suggested that Brexit could also cause difficulties for Irish staff working at racehorse sales in the UK, even with the common travel area between the two countries.

Their warnings came a week before the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, where Irish-bred stars, such as Cheltenham and Irish Champion Hurdle winner, Faugheen, are due to run.

We have a very, very close relationship with the UK. We do not want any change

ITBA chief executive Shane O’Dwyer confirmed that the organisation has been raising its concerns at meetings with the Department of Agriculture.

Tripartite deal

One concern is that a critical tripartite deal between the Republic, the UK and France – allowing vendors and trainers to move their horses freely between the three jurisdictions – could evaporate after Brexit.

“Brexit will pose problems.We have a very, very close relationship with the UK. We do not want any change,” he said. Mr O’Dwyer added that breeders’ organisations on both sides of the Irish Sea were working to find a solution.

Few Irish people realise the industry’s scale, he said. Estimates of the racing and breeding sectors’ worth to the Republic’s economy run to €1.84 billion, while they employ around 29,000 people.

Exhibitors at the seminar included Equilume, which provides light therapy for mares to help prepare them for breeding, and Dún Laoghaire-based genetics-based company, Plusvital, whose backers include Denis O’Brien and trainer Jim Bolger.