Breed­ers urged to seek re­call of bet­ting levy

Irish Independent - Farming - - Horses - Ann Fitzger­ald

THOR­OUGH­BRED breed­ers have been urged to can­vass their po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the rein­tro­duc tion of a 2.5pc off-course bet­ting levy in this year's bud­get in an ef­fort to re­vive the coun­try's strug­gling rac­ing and breed­ing in­dus­tries.

Ire­land cur­rently has 30pc fewer breed­ers, 30pc fewer thor­ough­bred mares and 44pc fewer stal­lions than in 1998 ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try con­sul­tant El­iz­a­beth Headon, ad­dress­ing the re­cent Ir­ish Thor­ough­bred Breed­ers As­so­ci­a­tion na­tional con­fer­ence in the Her­itage Ho­tel, Kil­lenard, Co Laois.

Even more con­cern­ing than the drop in the num­ber of stal­lions is the de­cline in qual­ity, with Ire­land now only stand­ing three of Europe's top stal­lions (by fee) com­pared to seven a decade ago. Of the top six, only one of those is now in Ire­land.

Ms Headon de­scribed how the ero­sion of the off-course bet­ting duty from 10pc down to 1pc over the past 15 years means that Ire­land now has the low­est bet­ting duty in the world.

When Horserac­ing Ire­land was set up, it was ex­pected that it would funded by this levy but this is no longer ad­e­quate and the sec­tor is now re­liant on the na­tional ex­che­quer, which has cut its sup­port by 29pc since 2008.

The Gov­ern­ment's cur­rent con­tri­bu­tion is the equiv­a­lent of 1.6pc of bet­ting turnover. This com­pares to 26pc in Ar­gentina, 14pc in Italy and 10pc in France. She pointed out Ire­land would still be one of the low­est in the world even at 2.5pc bet­ting duty.

To fa­cil­i­tate col­lec­tion of the levy, she sug­gested that it would be put back on the punter.

Prize money in France cov­ers over half the owner's keep and train­ing ex­penses, whereas the fig­ure in Ire­land is only 25pc. Ire­land has 21pc less net prize money per in­di­vid­ual run­ner than in Bri­tain.

The ses­sion was al s o ad­dressed by one of the coun- try's lead­ing breed­ers and train­ers, Jim Bol­ger. He said there was an ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion be­tween the drop in the prize money and the sim­i­lar de­cline in brood­mare num­bers.

“Prize money is the life blood of rac­ing,” he said.

“If we want to main­tain the sec­tor's 20,000 jobs, which are mainly in ru­ral Ire­land, the Gov­ern­ment needs to get its act to­gether.

SUP­PORT

“We ur­gently need a re­turn to the level of sup­port we had in 2007 and we need not be em­bar­rassed in ask­ing for it. We have a very good rep­u­ta­tion, but we need to keep our rac­ing on the top stage in the world.”

Ms Headon agreed that breed­ers should push f or sup­port for the sec­tor that gave such a high re­turn on in­vest­ment. “The cost of a job cre­ated in this sec­tor is just €3,214 com­pared to €12,597 for En­ter­prise Ire­land and €13,475 for the IDA,” she claimed.

Joe Fo­ley, owner of Bal­ly­hane Stud in Car­low, pointed out that the best stal­lions add huge value to the coun­try. “If mares don't come here to get cov­ered, there is a de­cline not just in nom­i­na­tions, but also in terms of trans­port, vet, board­ing and per­haps, fur­ther down the line, in the sales ring,” he said.

“The loss of the stal­lion tax ex­emp­tion in 2008 was a ma­jor blow,” he added. He em­pha­sised the need to at­trac t new breed­ers into the sec­tor, es­pe­cially young breed­ers and he pro­posed the ex­ten­sion into the sec­tor of stock al­lowances and other types of in­cen­tives which ex­ist in the live­stock sec­tor.

The con­fer­ence was also ad­dressed by cham­pion trainer Wil­lie Mullins, who said the in­dus­try needs a more se­cure source of fund­ing.

With the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val loom­ing, his early tip for a Yan­kee was Cham­pagne Fever, Hur­ri­cane Fly, Briar Hill and Wick­low Brave in the Supreme Novices.

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