HK front-runner to host Breeders' Cup
Jockey Club considers 2009 date to stage prestigious US meeting as organisers look to go global
Hong Kong is a front-runner for the first international staging of the Breeders' Cup meeting after organisers called for bid proposals to host the event.
Breeders' Cup president Greg Avioli revealed yesterday that 11 overseas and 20 North American racing clubs, including Hong Kong, had been asked to submit bids to host the Breeders' Cup - racing's 'other' world championships - in 2008, 2009 and 2010, similar to the manner in which Olympic Games are awarded to cities.
Avioli, who has been involved in the Olympics, said during the Asian Racing Conference in Dubai that dramatic changes were needed to revitalise the meeting and seeking bids to host it were part of that. 'We've raised prize money to US$20 million, increased the number of races to 11 this year, and we're moving towards 16 races and US$30 million,' he said.
'But what we realise is that, sure, sponsors want exposure in Los Angeles but they also want it in Paris or Hong Kong, and if we want the Breeders' Cup to be a major international property we have to be in the international marketplace.
'Hong Kong is on the list and would be one of the strongest contenders, especially given their experience in hosting international racing events.'
Jockey Club chief executive designate Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said the club would study the proposal carefully, with a view to a bid for 2009, when it could be staged at Sha Tin at the end of October with the club's own 'turf world championships' in their usual place in the calendar six weeks later.
'With the Beijing Olympics our first priority at this stage, 2008 would be too early, but 2009 or afterwards could be considered and I believe it would be an excellent link into our Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races,' he said.
'The price of hosting the event will be a key factor and there may be possible obstacles in the rules on medication [for horses], but the kind of exposure it would bring in the United States could be very advantageous in terms of our commingling of betting pools there.'
The Jockey Club is at an advanced stage of negotiations to simulcast racing into more than 80 Las Vegas casinos, and have those venues betting directly into Hong Kong pools, perhaps by the start of the next season. 'There may be other issues - we would have to look at our all-weather track and perhaps a switch to a polytrack - but it is an idea with potential,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
Avioli also said a revamped Breeders' Cup may have potential to join the Global Sprint Challenge (GSC) if a turf sprint was included in its programme. 'A turf sprint is a race that would really help us grow the event internationally,' Avioli said. 'It could not start until 2008, but if it was created then adding it to the GSC would be a great idea.'