Jockey Club targets growth of mainland China elite membership
Racing promoter eager to boost its ranks as increasing numbers of business heavyweights show an interest in joining
The Hong Kong Jockey Club would like to secure more mainland business heavyweights as members, says chairman Brian Stevenson.
The club will also work with mainland officials to develop more programmes for retired Hong Kong racehorses to develop "new careers" on the mainland.
"We have seen many senior mainland businessmen in Beijing showing an interest in joining the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and we expect to see our mainland membership continue to increase as a result of the closer ties between the economies of Hong Kong and mainland China," Stevenson said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
The 128-year-old club, which has 23,000 members in Hong Kong, has traditionally been regarded as an elite club for business heavyweights in the city, who use the clubhouse facilities in Happy Valley, Sha Tin, and Beas River, for watching horse racing as well as for dining, and meeting with business friends or arranging corporate entertainment activities.
In 2008, the Jockey Club established a clubhouse in the Wangfujing area of Beijing, with dining and leisure facilities, and started accepting mainlanders as members. However, the mainland club has no racetrack.
Stevenson said the club set up the facilities in Beijing to meet the needs of Hong Kong members who have businesses in both Hong Kong and the mainland and would like to use the Beijing clubhouse facilities to entertain business contacts on the mainland. The club saw a lot of use during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
It now has 600 mainland members who may use the clubhouse in Beijing for dining, meetings, and leisure activities. They may also use the racecourse facilities at Happy Valley and Sha Tin during the racing season.
Under a reciprocal arrangement, mainland members can use the three clubhouses in Hong Kong for up to three days a month, excluding the Happy Valley clubhouse on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Likewise, Hong Kong members can also use the Beijing clubhouse facilities.
Stevenson said another major development plan for the mainland was to convert a 150-hectare site in Conghua, 40 kilometres northeast of Guangzhou, which was created for the 2010 Asian Games equestrian events, into a HK$2 billion training centre for 400 Hong Kong racehorses.
"Many retired racehorses from Hong Kong can also develop new careers in the mainland," he said.
After training, some retired racehorses become police horses, while some are handed over to riding schools.
Since 1986, the club has donated selected retired racehorses to equestrian teams, PLA troops, and mounted police forces of various mainland provinces and cities in a bid to promote the development of equestrian sport across the nation.