RACECOURSE insurance is “a massive concern” for Irish tracks at the moment, according to Conor O’Neill, chairman of the Association of Irish Racecourses [AIR] and CEO of Punchestown.

This week AIR secured renewal of a group insurance scheme which covers 14 tracks but, separately, Galway and Punchestown have been waiting on confirmation from London that their insurance policy will be renewed. Punchestown’s policy recently expired and the track is due to race on Wednesday.

O’Neill said: “We’ve all seen the difficulties that hunt clubs and point-to-points have had in getting insurance. This is obviously a massive concern for racecourses too and will continue to be, going forward. It’s not just the financial element, it’s also the limited amount of underwriters in the market that is making it more difficult to get the required insurance for racing to take place.”


Punchestown’s insurance has traditionally included the Kildare Hunt point-to-point but the underwriters recently made it clear to the racecourse that the point-to-point could no longer be covered. A series of claims associated with hunting has prompted underwriters to steer clear of this sector, even though point-to-points themselves have not been responsible for major claims.

As Punchestown’s insurance policy expired on February 1st, and because of the late notification of the change in stance from the underwriters, the Kildare Hunt was forced to cancel its point-to-point which was due to take place today (Saturday).

O’Neill said: “We got an extension to our insurance policy which allowed us to race last Sunday but we are waiting on news from the underwriters in London that our new policy has been signed off ahead of next Wednesday’s meeting. I’m confident a solution will be achieved to enable racing to take place.”

An AIR group insurance scheme which covers 14 racecourses – not including Punchestown – is set to be renewed on March 1st with no major changes.

AIR chief executive Paddy Walsh said: “We got the policy renewed on Thursday. The premiums for each racecourse may be higher than last year but that is only because the numbers of people back at the races has gone up. Turnover has a bearing on the premium but the actual ‘rate’ has not changed.


“It’s pretty much the same cover as we have always had. In relation to property insurance, thankfully there has never been a ‘disaster’ claim, such as a grandstand being burned down, and so the premiums are quite low for the cover we have. Our biggest issue was the ‘participant’ insurance, which covers the jockeys, public liability and so on, but that’s all covered.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board insists that racecourse insurance includes cover for all those on-site.

Just weeks ago a new insurance scheme devised by hunt clubs appeared to rescue the point-to-point season but a prominent industry stakeholder has expressed doubts to The Irish Field that the laudable scheme can be sustained in the longer term.

He said: “Not only is it expensive but it does not indemnify the master of the hunt and it doesn’t cover under-16s. It’s a very big problem and it is not going away.”