A BOEING 747 took 76 Irish thoroughbreds from Shannon to Beijing last Thursday.
All the horses were purchased here by owner Zhang Yuesheng, assisted by Mick Donohoe of BBA Ireland. Donohoe said: “The majority have just turned two years old and were purchased at the yearling sales here. The cargo plane also included 10 to 15 racehorses bought at the horses-in-training sale.”
The 76 horses were airlifted in a four-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 €3 million airlift was the biggest single movement of Irish horses to China ever, more than doubling the previous high.
Donohoe is hopeful that the Irish exports will make a name for themselves in China, prompting more buyers from the Far East to buy Irish bloodstock. He said: “Australia supplies China with about 90% of their thoroughbred imports but the Irish horses sent there in recent years have done well and this is a big opportunity for Irish breeding.” The marketing body AusHorse and the Australian sales companies invest heavily in attracting Chinese buyers.
“The amount of racing in mainland China has increased and there are more tracks opening up,” Donohoe said. “Mr Zhang owns Yulong Racecourse in the Shanxi province and the racing season starts in May. He has made a big investment in Irish horses and hopefully they will perform well. They’re a nice bunch of racy sorts with good pedigrees.”
Donohoe says that the majority of race results in China will be accepted by Weatherbys and pedigree pages will be updated accordingly.
Zhang’s green and white colours have been a familiar sight on Irish racecourses in recent years.
His representatives last season include Michael Halford’s listed-winning and Group 3-placed juvenile Yulong Baobei, who was picked up for just €13,000 as a yearling at the Goffs Open Sale.
Zhang, who first purchased yearlings at Goffs in 2012, made a notable impact at the Tattersalls July Sale earlier this year when buying a number of well-bred mares who were destined to head to the southern hemisphere. That carried through to the Orby Sale where the owner snapped up yearlings by Galileo, Raven’s Pass and More Than Ready as well a couple of members of the Wildenstein Dispersal.
All three of the Orby purchases will go into training in Ireland while the 43 yearlings he bought at the Sportsman’s Sale have gone to China this week.
Declan Murray, BBA Ireland's managing director, said: “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."
Ann Munnelly, BBA Ireland's shipping director, said: “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.
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