After 20 years at the helm of Irish racing, Brian Kavanagh stepped down as chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) last Friday. During his tenure Kavanagh witnessed plenty of ups and downs, booms and recessions, but overall his time in office will be looked upon as a golden period for Irish racing.

Ever since the creation of Horse Racing Ireland in 2000, the various Governments of the day have looked favourably on the industry and appreciated that the annual grant (now over €90m) is money well spent as it fuels a billion euro business, with thousands of jobs in rural areas, tourism, fortunes in direct foreign investment and megabucks in exports. We won’t even mention the betting tax income as, to be fair, most betting in Ireland is actually on British racing.

Brian Kavanagh played a big part in this success story. He managed to keep all the stakeholders on a tight leash and could go to his bosses in the Department of Agriculture with a budget proposal secure in the knowledge that he was speaking for the entire industry.

Now that Kavanagh has returned to his ‘old’ job of managing the Curragh Racecourse, what can we expect from his successor, Suzanne Eade?

Like Kavanagh, Eade is not from a racing background but she has been HRI’s chief financial officer for six years, so she knows the ropes.

One of Kavanagh’s great skills was that he could chat with anyone in racing at all levels – from the man in the betting shop to the world’s richest racehorse owners – and that is probably not something Eade could manage as easily. However, she is reported to be popular with HRI staff in a way that perhaps Kavanagh wasn’t always.

It’s doubtful Eade will be scouring the pages of Irish Country Living for advice on how to do her job but, for what it’s worth, here are four issues we think she should prioritise:

1. Racecourse attendances: As a barometer for racing’s health, crowd numbers are not as important as they once were. But after 18 months with no spectators, a real push is needed to get racing fans back into the habit.

2. Drugs and welfare: We don’t need to go over the bad publicity racing has attracted over the past year – you know who we mean! Now what can HRI do to convince the racing public and the politicians that Irish racing is a good news story, where the animals come first? Taylor Swift declined to perform at the Melbourne Cup when some of her fans were repulsed at the idea. How do we convince that generation that racing is cool?

3. All-weather facilities: HRI has a stated aim of opening a second all-weather track at Tipperary. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously knocked back this project. Can Eade and her team get it up and running by 2024?

4. Brexit: It hasn’t gone away, you know. There are still difficulties and extra costs around exporting racehorses to Britain. Strictly speaking, it’s not HRI’s area but they have the political contacts to improve matters, which they have done with some success so far. The new regime needs to keep in contact with horse dealers and help solve their Brexit-related problems as they arise, making it as easy as possible for outside buyers to purchase Irish horses.