Novelty day boon only for Macau

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 12:00am

So the inaugural Hong Kong-Macau Trophy has been and gone. The task for both clubs now is to analyse what was positive about it for each of them.

News services throughout China, we believe, reported smilingly on the 'brothers playing nice' but this column is hard-bitten and cynical enough to suggest that the warm and fuzzy joys of seeing co-operation between the Macau and Hong Kong jockey clubs is insufficient to justify interport races.

Benefits need to be more obvious, and the Macau Jockey Club reaped a few. For a start, morale at Taipa gets a boost from the win, something Hong Kong did not stand to gain, regardless of results.

Macau racing - having won with the five lengths' start at the weights - will now be seen as substantially more worthwhile than it was a week ago. Not logical, but a good outcome.

Importantly, these races will, over time, establish a benchmark between the clubs and allow easy assignation of international ratings to Macau horses. In turn, that will allow them greater access to international racing opportunities.

Between the lift in profile and the greater access to the world, encouragement now exists for Macau owners to import more serious horses.

The guesswork and estimation in the 17 pound rating allowance last weekend will be replaced by a solid basis and a simple formula, though, when all was said and done, the allowance seemed not unreasonable.

The knee-jerk response that it was too much because a Macau horse won was predictable, if flawed. But what was in it for Hong Kong?

Win-win? Hardly.

The race was a turnover disaster of a greater degree than the International Races, with only about $79 million bet on the event. Clearly, running such events on a more regular basis would not be an option. The novelty - so much a part of the day - would no longer function and similar losses of turnover would be harder to stomach.

If there were local positives, they came in the form of an attendance which compared reasonably with last year's Classic Mile meeting and an upbeat atmosphere. That was it.

Though either might have been attributed to the sunnier day, there is a feeling at Sports Road that such occasional, unusual events do have customer appeal and the club may look to reinvent itself with more novelty days.