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China Backs Irish Horse Breeders to Win

Ireland’s export sector has helped fuel its fragile recovery from the economic crisis – and now it is exporting one of its most successful industries to China.

Horse in stable
Horse in stable

China has chosen the Coolmore stud in County Tipperary, one of the world’s best-known breeders of racehorses, to help it establish a $2 billion center for horse breeding and racing in Tianjin.

The deal was announced on Sunday during a Chinese tour by Simon Coveney, Ireland’s agriculture minister, which is part of a major charm offensive launched by Ireland in the world’s second-biggest economy that has also seen Prime Minister Enda Kenny visit last month. The deal is expected to be worth around $50 million to Ireland’s export sector.

Coveney said in a statement: “This initiative should facilitate the development of a major export market for horses from Ireland and has the potential to provide a range of business opportunities for companies and individuals in Ireland who can bring a wide range of expertise to the project."

Coolmore, owned by Irish tycoon John Magnier, will provide the Tianjin initiative with brood mares over the next three years. It will also host Chinese agriculture students as part of the initiative.

JP Magnier, Magnier’s eldest son, said: “The sector plays a huge part in the Irish economy, currently generating 1.1 billion euros annually. This industry is something we are good at, and today one of the biggest markets in the world has recognised that and has chosen to partner with Ireland.”

The construction of the new site at Tianjin marks the return of interest in horseracing in China as the population becomes more affluent. The sport was banned under former Communist dictator Mao Tse-Tung.

John Magnier’s investment vehicle Elpida, a joint venture with fellow Irish tycoon JP McManus, owns sizeable stakes in UK listed landlord Mitchells & Butler and used to own a sizeable chunk of Manchester United, before its sale to Malcolm Glazer, and the Sandy Lane resort in Barbados. Coolmore already has operations in the U.S. and Australia