Egan calls for meeting after trainers' course attracts just two applicants

Denis Egan, chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), says he would be open to a sit-down with fellow industry leaders after revealing that the upcoming trainers' course has been scrapped after only two applications were received.

The course, which is usually run twice per year, needs a minimum entry of ten applicants and its postponement – the only one Egan can remember – has left him concerned.

He said: “The industry as a whole needs to look at this and it would be well worth holding a meeting between ourselves in IHRB, HRI [Horse Racing Ireland], the IRTA [Irish Racehorse Trainers Association] and the RTA [Restricted Trainers Association].”

After statistics last month showed a fall from 805 to 578 trainers operating in Ireland over a ten-year period from 2007 to last year, Egan called the decline a "worrying trend".

Speaking on Tuesday, Egan maintained that something needs to be done to make training more of an attractive proposition.

He said: “I have a concern about the whole thing. As I said at the time [when the industry statistics were released], the industry needs to have a good look at this.

“There’s a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. We’ve got some very successful trainers, and that’s great, but there are also a huge number of people who are struggling and that’s what needs to be addressed.”

His remarks come in the wake of Irish trainers – led by Gordon Elliott with eight winners, Willie Mullins (seven), Pat Kelly (one) and Henry de Bromhead (one) – dominating at the Cheltenham Festival with 17 winners between them.

Egan added: “We had only two applications but needed a minimum of ten to run the course so it’s been postponed until the autumn.

“We generally run two trainer courses per year but obviously the first one is gone now. Prior to making the cancellation, we received a few phone inquiries about the course but nothing came of them. The two original applicants will have to wait until the autumn now.

"I can't remember the last time we had to cancel the trainers' course and it's certainly been full for the past four years.”

IRTA chief Michael Grassick said: "It's daunting for any person to take on the role as a trainer at present unless you've got a lot of money or a person backing you.

"The demand isn't there at all. I'm not surprised they couldn't fill the trainers' course – the only thing I'm surprised about is that it's taken us so long to come to this point."

He added: "The number of trainers in this country has been more or less the same each year, yet we've been producing between 20 and 25 trainers for the past six or seven years.

"That will tell you that you're getting new trainers through the system but we're also losing the same amount, or more, in some years. It's eventually caught up on itself and the reality is beginning to hit home."