Quarantine biggest barrier to Asian series, says Club chief
The quarantine issue - which has been thrown into the spotlight by the Fairy King Prawn affair - is seen as the major obstacle to plans for an official high-profile racing series in Asia.
A proposal for a big-money series is likely to be put before the Asian Racing Conference in November, but Jockey Club director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges yesterday stressed the idea was still only in the formative stages. 'The idea was floated at a meeting of the ARC last year, but there is a long way to go and realistically the series would not start until 2003 at the earliest,' he said.
'The biggest problem we face is the quarantine issue and it is vital that we have the agreement of all the member countries that horses can travel freely.'
Engelbrecht-Bresges added that the other two main sticking points were ensuring an adequate prize-money structure for the series and gaining international Group One status for the races involved. 'It is important to have the right prize-money across the board to attract top-class international horses and it would be good to have a Group One platform to build on.'
As well as Hong Kong, the ARC also includes Japan, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. The next full meeting of the countries will be held in Thailand in November, when plans for an ARC classification and pattern book are also likely to be discussed. If given the go-ahead, both could be launched next year and Engelbrecht-Bresges said they were important steps towards putting Asia on the world racing map.
'A pattern book which set out a properly combined calendar of top races around Asia would make clear our long-term planning, and it is vital if we are to be taken seriously as a major racing jurisdiction.
'People are becoming more aware that the countries within the ARC have the betting turnover and the number and quality of horses to rival other racing jurisdictions, and we must build on that.'
There is already an unofficial circuit of Asian races which has been exploited by Sunday's Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Silvano. The German-trained horse won in Singapore last month before going on to finish third in Dubai and, following his Hong Kong victory, he will now return to his starting point for the Singapore Airlines International Cup on May 12.
'Silvano shows that horses can travel around Asia and perform at the highest level, and it is clear that is the way forward for racing. An Asian series would not be a rival to the Emirates World Series because it could be held over different distances and at different times of the year.'
Ciaran Kennelly, the Club's senior handicapper, said Sunday's QE II Cup result had confirmed the race's status as an international Group One event, a position attained for the first time this year. 'The first four horses are used to assess a race's grading, and it is clear that Sunday's placed horses will maintain the Group One standard,' he said.
'Silvano went into the race with an international rating of 115, but I think he has improved after his win in Singapore and is now up to 120, which is the mark of a very high-standard Group One performer. Jim And Tonic ran a bit below his best mark of 123 but the third horse, Indigenous, performed to a rating of 115. It was a very satisfactory result in ratings terms.'