Lower turnover, but Club smiles
The crowd was very slightly down, the betting turnover significantly so, yet punters were happy as it rained favourites and the Jockey Club had to make do with the paradox that yesterday's season-opening day was an improved dollar result.
A drop of HK$52 million in bets translated to a fall of more than 6 per cent on last year's $833 million, and that result should have been the cause of some wringing of hands, but chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges was left bemused instead.
'I felt the turnover drop was expected, when we had 25 per cent fewer horses than for this meeting last year and no jackpots,' he said. 'But the interesting statistic is that the bottom line for both the club and government was up.
'Last year's gross margin for the club was $38 million and this year $39 million and the government's share of the margin rose by $2 million to $104 million.'
The reason for the twist lay in the race results themselves, with the predominance of favourites performing well and saving the Jockey Club from having to make rebate payments on larger bets. Four outright favourites won, as did two very close second favourites, and the only spoiler to the afternoon for punters was the 13-1 victory of Wine Win. 'The more the favourites win, the less we have to pay rebates, so we have this strange situation,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
'On the track, I thought the action was good and the atmosphere was good, but it is well known that smaller fields have a negative impact on turnover. We knew it would be this way today. When we did have a field of any size, the betting was strong - we held $98 million on 13 runners in race nine, which is very strong turnover for a Class Four - but we didn't have our usual big fields most of the day. It's a temporary thing and today was satisfactory, in the circumstances, but in two to three weeks we will be over this problem.'