How Many Races Do Bookmakers Sponsor In Ireland?
Online betting and casino company Betway has announced its expansion of sponsorship in Irish horse racing, begging the question, exactly how many races do bookmakers sponsor in Ireland?
Betting companies are not prevalent in Irish Flat racing sponsorship, but over jumps they stump up the cash for 31% of Ireland's 35, and 62% of Britain's 39 Grade 1s.
Betway entered the market in 2014, taking on the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in a three-year deal they have since extended to 2020. Last year, they joined Aintree for the Grand National meeting, sponsoring four Grade 1s, and this August they came to Ireland.
Betway Joins Punchestown Sponsors
Having sponsored three races at Galway's Summer Races, Betway will join Punchestown later this month when they back the Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase at the Kildare track's Winter Festival.
“The Galway Festival was excellent and we’re now very much looking forward to our second phase of sponsorship in Irish racing,” Betway’s Alan Alger said.
“It’s a great place for us to be branching out and we’re hugely excited to be sponsoring the feature race on the opening day of the Winter Festival. The race has produced some brilliant chasers over the years and we’re looking forward to the 2018 renewal with an added interest.”
Punchestown Sales and Sponsorship Manager Janet Creighton added: “They are a company who clearly recognise the value of the Irish racing product and we very much look forward to working with them to optimise their sponsorship activity with us.”
That race comes on Saturday, November 17, the Sunday feature, the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle, also being sponsored by a bookmaker in Scandinavian operator Unibet - who will be live in Britain that day too as sponsors of Cheltenham's feature race, the Greatwood Hurdle.
How Valuable Are Bookmakers To Racing Sponsorship?
There are more than 2,500 races run in Ireland each year, and in 2017 bookmakers and betting exchanges contributed €766,750 towards race sponsorship, representing a 16% share - which only the group Racecourses & Supporters Clubs equalled, media organisations adding €740k to the pot.
Grade 1 races represent the top 3% of the jumps racing pool, Punchestown being the pinnacle, where the four feature races - the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, Stayers Hurdle, and Gold Cup - carry the names of gambling operators.
Collectively, their prize money is worth €1.1million, more than a third of the total cash on offer at the five-day meeting - which neatly represents what they mean to the Irish National Hunt season as a whole.
This is almost mirrored by Britain as the Cheltenham Festival's Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle and Stayers Hurdle are also backed by betting companies, as is the most important Grade 1 chase outside Cheltenham's Gold Cup, the King George VI Chase.
The four Festival races prize funds combine for £1.2million, amounting to one quarter of the four day meeting's total offering of £4.6million, and the King George VI Chase is worth £250,000.
In addition to Grade 1s, bookmakers also boost the prize money of some of Ireland's most valuable handicap chases, including the €500k Irish Grand National and the €250k Galway Plate, while in Britain Coral sponsors the Scottish and Welsh Grand Nationals, Unibet backing Cheltenham's Greatwood Hurdle and Ladbrokes, Newbury's Trophy Handicap Chase.
In a calendar year in Britain there are 39 Grade 1 races run over jumps, and in Ireland there are 35. Of the British group, just 15 are not sponsored by bookmakers or betting exchanges, while in Ireland, 11 races do carry the name of a bookie, but it's clearly quality not quantity that counts.
Which Bookmakers Sponsor Races?
As mentioned above, a substantial portion of Britain and Ireland's horse races are sponsored by bookmakers, especially in jumps racing.
At the Cheltenham Festival alone, Unibet, SunBets, SkyBet, OLBG, Coral, and Betway are on the sponsor sheet, with Cheltenham's feature races at the November meeting backed by Unibet and BetVictor. Betfair, Bet365, Betfred, Coral, and 32Red also sponsor Grade 1s in Britain.
In Ireland, Paddy Power, Unibet, Betdaq, Ladbrokes, Coral, Boylesports, and Bar One Racing all sponsor Grade 1s, with Tote Ireland backing the Galway Plate, and smaller independent Toals Bookmakers putting their name to the Grade A Leinster National Handicap Chase.
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