A major leap in developing the lucrative China
market for Irish bloodstock has been made with a record airlift of 76 Irish
thoroughbreds from Shannon Airport.
All were purchased for Chinese businessman
Zhang Yuesheng by Kildare based bloodstock agency BBA Ireland at sales in Goffs
last autumn all from Irish breeders. The 76 horses were airlifted in a 4 month
old Boeing 747 cargo plane from Shannon, landing in Beijing late on Thursday
night and are being transported to stables over the weekend.
The €3m airlift was the biggest single
movement of Irish horses to China ever, more than doubling the previous high. It
was biggest success to date for the Irish thoroughbred industry in terms of the
Chinese market and the culmination of a number of years work by BBA Ireland,
supported by Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), the semi-state which promotes
Ireland as the leading source for the production and sale of quality
The airlift, it is hoped, will lead to further
purchases by Chinese horse racing/breeding interests. Typically up to now, over
90% of thoroughbred horses in China are imported from Australia and New Zealand
but this airlift confirms the growing Chinese interest in the more expensive,
higher-quality Irish horse.
Zhang Yuesheng, for whom the horses were
purchased, was introduced to the Irish market by the efforts of ITM and BBA
Ireland, through sales director Michael Donohoe, working on the ground in China
and the company is hopeful that the record airlift is a sign of things to come.
“This is really good business for the Irish
equine industry, not least for small breeders from whom most of these horses
were purchased. Many of these horses might not have met the high standards of
the Irish and European market but they are still of a higher standard than the
average horse currently racing in China. So Irish breeders get a good price for
horses they might not otherwise have got, the industry here further develops the
emerging Chinese market and China gets a higher quality race horse. Everyone
wins with this,” said Declan Murray,
Managing Director at BBA Ireland.
Chief Commercial Officer for Shannon Group,
which operates Shannon Airport, Andrew
Murphy, said that the airlift was in
keeping with the airport’s target of growing its livestock cargo business. “We
are well used to ‘firsts’ at Shannon but having a record airlift of Irish horses
to China from here was very exciting for all concerned. BBA Ireland are experts
in this market and we are delighted to be working with them. We also have
considerable experience and expertise over the years in handling this type of
precious cargo through sizeable equine lifts for some of the Irish larger stud
farms that have horses going to the United States, Middle East and onto
Australia. This gives comfort to BBA Ireland and, indeed, to their clients.”
Ann Munnelly, BBA Ireland Shipping
Director: “We have been working on this for three months, since the horses were
purchased. Many experienced hands have been involved in this and it has been one
of our most ambitious projects to date so we are very excited to have completed
it. It illustrates not alone the opportunity in China for Ireland but also our
ability to deliver.”
The airlift travelled with a team of
professional flying grooms and a vet, with a team of 30 handlers on the ground
involved in the three hour process of loading the animals at Shannon. The horses
will go into training in China before becoming top local racers.
They were purchased at two separate autumn
sales in Goffs. Most of the horses were sourced at their Sportsman Sale, a notch
down from their premier level sale. Most of them are yearlings and only a small
number have already raced.