Video: Record Irish bloodstock charter to China

09 / 01 / 2017

A record airlift of 76 Irish thoroughbreds is being described as a “major leap” in developing the lucrative Chinese market for Ireland.

All of the horses were purchased for Chinese businessman Zhang Yuesheng by Kildare-based bloodstock agency BBA Ireland at sales in Goffs last autumn, all from Irish breeders. 

The horses, mostly yearlings, were airlifted from Shannon Airport in an AirBridgeCargo Boeing 747-8 freighter, landing in Beijing and transported to stables over the weekend.

The €3m “airlift” was the biggest single movement of Irish horses to China ever, more than doubling the previous high, said a spokesperson for the project organisers. The charter was organised by Charlie McMullen of Intradco Global, the specialist animal transport arm of Chapman Freeborn.

The spokesperson added: "It was biggest success to date for the Irish thoroughbred industry in terms of the Chinese market and the culmination of a number of years work by BBA Ireland, supported by Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), the semi-state which promotes Ireland as the leading source for the production and sale of quality thoroughbreds worldwide."

It is hoped that this consignment will lead to further purchases by Chinese horse racing/breeding interests. 

Typically up to now, over 90% of thoroughbred horses in China are imported from Australia and New Zealand but this movement confirms the growing Chinese interest in the more expensive, higher-quality Irish horse.

Declan Murray, managing director at BBA Ireland, 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.”

Andrew Murphy, chief commercial officer for Shannon Group, which operates Shannon Airport, said: “We are well used to firsts at Shannon but having a record airlift of Irish horses to China from here was very exciting for all concerned. 

“BBA Ireland are experts in this market and we are delighted to be working with them. We also have considerable experience and expertise over the years in handling this type of precious cargo through sizeable equine lifts for some of the Irish larger stud farms that have horses going to the US, Middle East and onto Australia. This gives comfort to BBA Ireland and, indeed, to their clients.”

Ann Munnelly, BBA Ireland 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.”

A team of professional flying grooms and a vet traveled with the horses, and a team of 30 handlers were on the ground for the three hour process of loading the animals at Shannon. The horses will go into training in China before becoming top local racers.