Singapore waiting to see how the cards fall

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2010, 12:00am

Singapore's international races have jumped ahead in leaps and bounds along with the rest of the racing scene there in recent years - a firm reminder of the benefits of a smart and co-operative government - and, given the level of support from visiting runners this year, the major events on the Singapore Turf Club (STC) calendar will continue to grow in stature.

But, despite the strong partnership with Singapore Airlines - which signed on for another three years as the major sponsor on the weekend - the STC's biggest enemy to expansion is coming virtually from within.

The government's decision to allow two casinos to be built on the island has turf club officials waiting with bated breath over the impact on the turnover and hence any plans to increase prize money for the local and international races.

Yu Pang Fey, president and chief executive of the STC, is keen to build on the international race day by increasing prize money and, potentially, adding more races, but he has been forced to postpone those plans until his accountants have time to assess the damage to turnover.

His hopes to make the international meeting a truly iconic event must remain just that until the impact of the casino's slot machines and gaming tables can be weighed.

On the plus side for the STC, is the S$100 (HK$560) fee for locals wishing to visit the casinos.

It makes the S$3 racecourse entry-fee look small chips and no doubt the locals will still flock to the racecourse each week, though the casinos are open round-the-clock and the tables and roulette wheels will remain an attractive option for heavyweight gamblers.

Great horses will always draw crowds and the strengthening of local ranks will keep the punters coming through the turnstiles for now at least, with stars like Rocket Man and the unbeaten Singapore Guineas winner Better Than Ever helping the island nation make a big footprint on the international racing scene in the future, both at home and abroad.

Ironically, the advertising inherent in these two horses continuing to race at home is a dent to the STC finances, an echo of the Silent Witness days in Hong Kong when the Jockey Club frequently had to chip in to make up the difference in declaring the required minimum dividends.

Returning $$6 for every $$5 invested on Friday night in Singapore, the win of Better Than Ever reportedly cost the STC S$1 million as the locals piled onto their new favourite, which duly saluted by more than four lengths.