IRISH racing’s reputation for upholding high standards of equine welfare will be seriously challenged an RTÉ Investigates report which will be broadcast in two parts on Wednesday and Thursday evening on RTÉ One and on RTÉ Player.

Entitled RTÉ Investigates: Horses - Making a Killing the programme claims it will go “deep inside the equine industry to show what happens to horses after they leave the spotlight”, according to the national broadcaster.

The Irish Field understands that the programme will reveal that retired racehorses and unwanted thoroughbreds are being collected nationwide by unscrupulous dealers who are exporting them to continental Europe where they are issued new passports and sold on to unwitting buyers as suitable riding horses.

It is assumed that those who fail to find a buyer are sent to an abattoir for slaughter.

This unseemly trade involves equines of all breeds but, while racehorses only account for a small portion of those being exported in this manner, the RTÉ programme will focus on the thoroughbred aspect in the belief that the sector presents itself as an international leader and as an industry where horse welfare is a priority.

Although the broadcast may not contain any evidence of illegal activity, the investigation is sure to embarrass the racing authorities who will be accused of not doing enough to ensure the traceability of thoroughbreds or ensuring that all registered racehorse owners show a reasonable duty of care to their horses when their value has diminished.

There has been speculation this week in racing circles that some well-known trainers or dealers may be named in the RTÉ broadcast.

The Irish Field understands that various racing authorities and administrative bodies were made aware of alleged failings of the passport system in 2022 by concerned individuals.

One of those individuals, who has conducted extensive investigations into the export of horses from Ireland to continental Europe, told The Irish Field this week: “My colleague and I are on the fringes of the industry and yet, based only on our suspicions, we were able to discover what has been happening.

“I find it hard to believe that those charged with regulating and promoting racing, with their resources and contacts, had no idea what’s going on. I believe they turned a blind eye to these actions – claiming it is happening outside of their jurisdiction – rather than expose it and risk giving Irish racing a bad name.”