Funding for Irish racing’s integrity service to be cut by €200,000 in 2020

Horse Racing Ireland makes prizemoney a priority, and confirms an extra €1.7m will be made available next year

There is a €200,000 cut to Irish racing’s integrity service funding for 2020, although Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has also announced a €1.7 million prizemoney increase for next year.

HRI released its “extremely tight” 2020 budget on Wednesday on the back of Government funding for racing remaining stalled at the 2019 figure of €67.2 million.

As a result redevelopment of the Irish Equine Centre has been put on hold, as have any new racecourse capital development projects. Racecourse marketing supports grants have been halved.

A meeting of the HRI board this week also confirmed that Tipperary, which is owned by Irish racing’s ruling body, is the preferred location for a second all-weather track which had been planned to be built by 2021. However, that is also on hold due to a lack of funding, and if a funded proposal has not been approved by HRI by the end of June 2021 then Tipperary’s preferred location status will cease and other applications to build a new all-weather circuit may be sought.


It is the context in which the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has seen a cut in its integrity budget of €200,000 to €9.2 million next year. That money is to cover the costs of race-day stewarding and other integrity costs including anti-doping.

Yet despite cuts elsewhere HRI has made prizemoney a priority, and confirmed €1.7 million more will be up for grabs next year, making for a total prize fund of €68 million.

“In a competitive international environment it is important for Ireland to offer prizemoney levels which will continue to attract owners to keep horses in training in Ireland.

“Prizemoney increases committed to key festivals and major races will account for some of that increase, as will seven extra fixtures in 2020,” said a HRI statement.

Extremely tight

The organisation’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: “The 2020 budget for the industry is extremely tight, and while we have been able to fund the increased fixture list there have been cutbacks or standstill situations in other areas.”

He added: “The HRI board has aligned its spend in 2020 with its strategic priorities for the industry. However the reality is that a number of important capital projects such as the Irish Equine Centre redevelopment, the development of a second all-weather track and a new racecourse capital development scheme are on hold due to the lack of certainty around longer-term funding.”

Kavanagh later said that prizemoney remained a central priority for HRI and especially so in what he called a “Brexit environment”.

“There are a couple of drivers [for the prizemoney increase]. First, there are seven extra fixtures added to the list, and they have to be funded. Secondly, a number of contractual commitments are there in relation to some of the bigger festivals such as Punchestown, the Dublin Racing Festival and Irish Champions Weekend.

“We had worked with the racecourses to develop prizemoney over a period of three years, and they had gone to sponsors saying if they put in so much then HRI would put in this much.”

Kavanagh said he hoped that static State funding would be temporary, but said he fully understood the Government’s reasons for no increase in 2020 due to the circumstances of Brexit.

“I hope the British election has brought some clarity on that. The slight concern is talk of a deal not being done by the end of next year. We don’t want to be coming to the second half of next year with a threat of no-deal hanging over everyone.

“There are a number of important projects that we’ve brought as far as we can and are now at a T-junction with. Hopefully there can be resolution soon in terms of long-term funding,” he said.


Other features of HRI’s new budget include a 0.1 per cent increase in owners’ contributions for a race worth less than €20,000.

Grants of €1.32 million and €1.095 were approved for the Irish Equine Centre and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing respectively.

There is no change to funding levels for point-to-points in 2020.

Separately, both HRI and the British Horseracing Authority announced on Tuesday there will be a trial of “non-standard race times” in February.

Such times refer to races not programmed on the standard 5-minute mark. The aim is to explore possible scheduling benefits on afternoons when there is a large volume of racing in Ireland and Britain.

The race times – such as 3.08 – will only be trialled on 11 days when there are four or more meetings staged concurrently in Ireland and Britain. They consist of five Saturdays and six week days.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column