New HRI chief Suzanne Eade aims to bring clean slate to racing body

Dubliner had no background in racing before joining semi-State body in 2015 as CFO

The new chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, Suzanne Eade, has said she brings a clean slate to the job of running the semi-State body.

Eade takes over from Brian Kavanagh who stepped down on Friday after 20 years at the helm of Irish racing.

Although Eade hasn’t yet been officially appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine Charlie McConalogue – despite having won the race to succeed Kavanagh in July – she is gearing up for the task of becoming just the second chief executive of HRI.

Originally from Santry in Dublin, and with no background in the sport or industry, Eade joined racing’s ruling body as chief financial officer in 2015.


On Sunday she pointed to the construction of a new all-weather track at Tipperary and investment in the Irish Equine Centre as key capital priorities for her.

She also agreed that her lack of experience within the industry prior to joining HRI means she brings a comparative clean slate to the job.

“I don’t have pre-conceived ideas of people or their thoughts. You pick it up quickly when there is an issue but you don’t let it cloud your judgment. I find I can think clearly on things because I don’t have that, so it’s probably fair,” Eade said.

“What it has allowed me to do is question things because I didn’t take anything for granted as a result of coming in [from] somewhere different.

“I suppose I worked a lot internationally, and worked in different organisations, so I’d seen things done differently in different places, albeit in a very different environment. But there was lot of chances to reapply those learnings in different ways.

“I just make sure I talk about topics I understand and not open my mouth when I’m still learning certain aspects of the whole industry.

“But I’ve been very lucky since I went in there. I’ve been very welcomed into the industry and I never felt not being part of racing before, that anyone held that against me. I don’t know if they did but I’ve never felt it,” she also said

Prior to joining HRI, Eade worked for a number of companies including Boots Ireland and Oral-B. She will serve a seven-year term with a salary understood to be €190,000. Her appointment is expected to be rubber-stamped shortly.

The new chief executive plans to draw up a priority list with her team this week but pointed to two capital projects in particular.

“There are some big capital projects that we would like to finalise. They have already been in the strategic plan and I was a good part of that, working on that,” she said.

“There is the all-weather from the capital side, and the Irish equine centre. They are two big ones I really want to see happen.”

Kavanagh, who takes charge of the Curragh in November, confirmed last year that plans to have the €18 million redevelopment of Tipperary finished by 2022 had to be pushed back.

This year’s HRI budget also includes a €1.31 million grant for the redevelopment of the Irish Equine Centre.

HRI’s 2021 budget allocation from Government is €76. 8 million, a €9.6 million increase on last year.

Covid-19 restrictions easing, with full spectator attendances expected to resume next month, means Eade can concentrate on other issues the sport faces.

They include the continuing controversy over doping allegations made by top trainer Jim Bolger which were examined in Oireachtas Agriculture Committee hearings during the summer.

A report to Government is expected from the Committee with suggestions already that it will recommend substantial changes to the structure of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, potentially including legislation to turn it into a semi-State body like HRI.

Eade said she has not seen any report and would not comment on the matter until she has.

However she did say: “My own view is that I want a world class regulator. That’s it. Everybody in the industry wants that.”

In other news, the countdown has begun to this Sunday's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with Christophe Soumillon eager to be reacquainted with the ante-post favourite Tarnawa.

The Belgian jockey rode Dermot Weld's mare to a pair of Group One victories at Longchamp last year before a positive Covid-19 test meant he was replaced by Colin Keane at the Breeders' Cup.

Back at Longchamp Soumillon is on board again and said on Sunday: “Tarnawa is a great filly. I really was pleased with her first run this season and last time [Irish Champion Stakes] she ran really great.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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