HRI Partners With Aer Lingus College Football Classic For Three Years

Jockey Cillian McConnell (centre) and Dublin Rebels players Greg Johnson (left) and Evan Allen (right) line up at the launch of Horse Racing Ireland's three-year partnership with the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, which will see Leopardstown Racecourse host a 'Stars and Stripes' race fixture on 24th August 2023. | INPHO/James Crombie

Horse racing will become part of the annual celebration of American College Football in Ireland featuring a Stars and Stripes themed race night at Leopardstown Racecourse after a three-year partnership was announced between Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Aer Lingus College Football Classic.

The 2023 edition of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic game, featuring Notre Dame versus Navy at a sold out Aviva Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 26, is estimated to be worth €147 million to the Irish economy. The Leopardstown race night is one of approximately 50 official events taking place in the week preceding the game and will be held on Aug. 24.

U.S.-based buyers spent €18.8 million on 142 Irish Thoroughbreds last year, an increase on €2.1 million on the previous year's value, and the 2022 sales figures represent a 55% increase over the course of the past five years, when just €8.5 million was spent in 2018. Ireland's public bloodstock sales were worth €538m last year, the second highest in the world.

Private sales of Irish bloodstock in 2022 were estimated to be worth around €120 million, according to the HRI-commissioned Deloitte report – Social and Economic Impact of Irish Thoroughbred Breeding & Racing 2023 which was published last month.  This places the total value of Irish bloodstock sales at €658m for last year. Over a quarter of all registered owners of Irish racehorses are based overseas and the US is home to approximately 20% (243) of these overseas owners making it the second largest overseas market for Irish racehorse ownership behind the UK.

Paul Dermody, CEO of HRI Racecourses and HRI Director of Commercial & Marketing, said, “The U.S. Bloodstock market is the biggest in the world, but the international reputation of Irish horse-breeding is driving significant interest from U.S. buyers and resulting in year-on-year growth in bloodstock sales to US buyers. The team at Irish Thoroughbred Marketing are doing a fantastic job in attracting US buyers to Ireland and growing that segment of the overseas buyer market in both public and private sales.

“The ties between Irish and US horseracing have never been stronger with a host of Irish-bred Grade I winners in the U.S. in 2022 and the likes of Joseph O'Brien being backed by U.S. investors to set up a satellite yard in Saratoga in New York.  HRI's partnership with the Aer Lingus College Football Classic will allow us to develop new avenues to connect with US buyers and further enhance our offering to US buyers.”

Tim Husbands, CEO Leopardstown Racecourse, said, “Leopardstown Racecourse and Aer Lingus College Football Classic have a mutual ambition to develop our respective sports by introducing new audiences. The creation of the Stars and Stripes Race Day is to develop a sporting event that celebrates the best Irish music, sport, and dancing with fun of an American tailgate party.”

Brendan Meehan, Commercial Director of ALCFC, said “Horseracing in Ireland is very popular and plays an important role in Irish–U.S. relations, so to have the Stars and Stripes race meeting in Leopardstown Racecourse on the Thursday evening before the game provides a wonderful opportunity for U.S. visitors to experience the fun, the ambiance and everything that Leopardstown has to offer.”

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