It is a well documented that after the Great Recession of 2008, many Irish racing trainers struggled to remain competitive and never fully recovered to pre-recession levels.
There were a lot of restrictions and impediments which tested their endurance to the max. These included the non-payments of training fees which were a colossal factor in the trainers’ sharp decline.
The majority of middle-of-the-road racehorse owners and syndicate affiliates earned their money from of the construction industry. So when the Celtic Tiger, a term referencing the booming Irish economy, then stopped roaring, the well of disposable income soon dried up.
Unfortunately with far greater financial concerns on their mind, paying their chosen trainer for a weekend hobby soon became a distant second priority behind providing their family with a roof over thee head and food on the table. In fact, the situation became so bleak that an attitude of “keep my horse if you want” became concerningly common.
Fast forward to 2020. The current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge facing the world of racing since those dark days and has brought even more misery to everyone involved in racing.
The construction industry are certainly not the only ones to blame this time, in face almost every business and trade has been shaken to its core. Although government have reacted and are doing what they can to slow and, eventually, halt the pandemic, it may not be enough to keep things afloat for many trainers.
Naturally the mega-rich still won’t be overly concerned about paying training fees in the short term, although if the racing doesn’t resume before too long, even they might feel the pinch and have to cut their losses.
Most typical racehorse owners though, or syndicate members, just will not be able to endure the monthly payments for long without a regular monthly wage. At a time when the job security of many is almost non-existent in these dark times of uncertainty, the notion of keeping up with payments just isn’t possible. Especially with the no fixed end date to the crisis or a timeline for the resumption of racing in place
This puts the trainer in a hugely problematic situation, yet again. Government furlough schemes will help but, should they run out, laying off staff is the likely next step for them to keep their business models feasible.
Once the virus has passed things will become clearer. The damage which has been done to the economy is not yet known, although horse racing trainers will be smashing their piggybanks to keep the show on the road as we speak.
Until that time, the industry can do nothing but hope that something positive will arise from this wreckage and keep supporting one another as much as possible.
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