It’s obvious that the top job at Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is a huge responsibility and is incredibly demanding; however, Dubliner Suzanne Eade is well-versed in the mechanics of big business. She worked for several global companies followed by her post of chief financial officer (CFO) at HRI for six years, before her move to the big chair.

Suzanne has a number of clear messages to share in terms of her vision for Irish racing and growing sustainably. Welfare, both human and equine, is very much her priority. “I benefit from loving sport and knowing there’s a vast industry driven by people very dependent on the policies that happen here.” She admits.

“It’s also my focus to ensure that HRI delivers for all their clients and highlights the importance of the racehorse owners who keep the whole industry going. And for all of that, funding is key.

“It’s essential to put the industry’s position very strongly to Government. We’ve got to focus on the rural economy: those jobs are critical. We couldn’t drive the industry without that support from the Government.

"We share the successes with them and measure everything we spend, so we can go back and say, ‘here’s where it’s made a difference’. All I can do is fight for the industry I lead. This is an industry that generates an excellent return. We are delivering €1.84bn in a normalised year. That’s probably going to go up as we head into 2023.”


Given the pressure of her responsibilities, when it comes to her modus operandi for wellbeing, Suzanne gives credit to her family and her love of sport: “I have a good husband who is very supportive, and he’s not involved in racing, so when I’m at home I can switch off from it, as much as I can.

"I love travelling; I love spending time going to other sports events as well; I love rugby. So we go to a lot of internationals. My husband is a New Zealander, so that makes the relationship perfect because I loved rugby before I met him.

“He is a very easy-going guy and would be very supportive; I have a good network of family and friends and cousins that I can switch off with. Although my consistency would be questionable, I also do some personal training, but I try to go. (Laughing) It’s 8.15 am in my garage online with a personal trainer!”


Having been in the unenviable dual role of both CEO and CFO for the last seven months (until the CFO role is taken over), Suzanne reflects on her reasoning for self-care: “Your health and wellbeing are important; I’ve learnt recently that life is short.

Looking at some people who have lost loved ones during COVID, you have to say to yourself, ‘well, you know, do your best in the role, and then you need a break’. At the moment, my husband is in Australia as he hasn’t seen his family for over four years, and I probably haven’t seen them for eight.

So I’ll join him for a few weeks. So that will be my break, and then I’ll come back, and I’ll be buzzing for the flat season.”

Thick Skin

One of the things many of the Horsewomen of Ireland seem to have in common is a thick skin and the ability to learn to edit what affects them, what to take home or what to leave aside.

Suzanne has a very public role and has faced criticism that she may not be ‘Irish racing enough’. She has appeared before the Public Accounts Committee and been on national media to defend the racing industry.

She has had her CEO salary discussed in Dáil debates, but she is pragmatic in her thoughts on that.

“I suppose my role to date hasn’t been as public in terms of the Irish environment if you like, but it’s public enough when you face the owner of a huge retailer, and you’ve got to defend Ireland.

Do you have to have a thick skin? I think you have to learn what’s important and what’s not.

“You’ve got to look for more capital investment to open new stores in Ireland or new IT. One of the things I did when I worked for Boots was to get the money to invest in going online. So I was used to defending our position as a country in a global environment.

“There’s always somebody in a role like this who is accountable, so I am kind of used to that. I suppose the most comfortable I am is being transparent; as long as I’m in an environment where I can be straightforward and transparent, I’m relaxed. We’ve got a very supportive and strategic board, so that does help with it all.

“Do you have to have a thick skin? I think you have to learn what’s important and what’s not. To focus on what’s going to make a difference to the industry and not get upset about things you can’t control.

"I think because I care so much, I’ve always been like that, and whatever job I’ve been in, it really mattered to me that what I did made a difference and that the people working for me got recognition for what they did. So I think that it’s just essential to keep a lid on what’s important, but it’s not always easy to do that.”