Jockey Club expands to Guangdong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 12:00am

A state-of-the-art training centre will be developed near Guangzhou by 2014 as part of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's grand plan to secure racing's future.

The club yesterday spoke to trainers, owners and some club staff about the plan to acquire land at Conghua, 40 kilometres northeast of Guangzhou, subsequent to its use for the equestrian events of the Asian Games in November next year.

Racing director Bill Nader (pictured) said the plan tied into the club's 'grand vision', which will be detailed and presented to the board of stewards in the next few months for its approval, and addressed what is a looming issue with training facilities.

'Our facilities at Sha Tin are over 30 years old. They were originally built with 900 horses in mind, and our horse population is now 1,200,' Nader said.

'Sha Tin is built on reclaimed land and also has some structural issues, and it is no simple matter to perform the work it needs. To rebuild it and renovate, we also need something of at least the same standard - and this will be better - to house and train a large number of horses while we do that necessary work on Sha Tin.

'What we don't want, and what is already starting to happen, is Hong Kong's training facilities falling behind places like Singapore and South Korea, which are investing heavily in their facilities now.

'There is no land available in Hong Kong, especially the land we need to sustain our racing for decades to come, so we have to look further afield.'

Engineers have levelled off the top of a mountain in constructing the Asian Games equestrian facilities at Conghua, which will provide quarantine and training facilities for around 200 horses, but the Jockey Club plans to double that capacity after the Games.

'Our participation in the Asian Games is in our area of expertise, the equestrian competition, as it was in the Beijing Olympics,' Nader said.

'And that opens the way for us to acquire that land after the Games and, from January 2011 onwards, we intend to start developing the training centre with the objective of starting to move horses there from January 2014,' Nader said.

'The idea is that 800 horses will remain at Sha Tin, and 400 will be based at Conghua. They will be trained there, barrier trials will take place there, too, and horses engaged in races will be transported to Hong Kong some days beforehand.

'There will be a turf track there as big as Sha Tin, uphill gallops - it will have everything Sha Tin has and more that it has not.'

Nader said plans included the broadcasting of gallops and trials at Conghua, so that nothing was hidden from punters.

'It's a long-term plan, and everyone with a stake will be considered. Part of the reason we are so far ahead of this project and giving people an overview now is to enable proper discussions from all parties, to get their input and make sure we are all going in the same direction,' Nader said.