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Hong Kong Jockey Club

Horse racing Hong Kong-style still a long way off for mainland China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 2:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 2:03am

Considering there is no horse racing as we know it on the mainland, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has good form there, to use racing parlance.

It seems to have borne fruit with the announcement of strategic cooperation with the Chinese Equestrian Association - an arm of the State General Administration of Sport - to lay the foundations for a future racing industry.

The birth of the joint enterprise comes ahead of a collaborative race meeting on November 7, featuring the final leg of the China Horse Racing Grand Prix at the Jinma track in Wenjiang, just outside Chengdu in Sichuan province.

The Jockey Club has been heavily involved with prestige mainland equine affairs, including spending HK$1.2 billion on facilities and organisation of equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, a major role in the Longines China show-jumping tour and the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games equestrian events, held on the site now being developed as the HKJC Conghua Training Centre near Guangzhou.

The partnership and the November 7 race meeting could prove a historic turning point in establishing the sport on the mainland.

Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges acknowledges that no one knows if or when there will be betting on racing across the border.

But he says that before long there will be a thoroughbred breeding industry for which a stud book and accurate registration of horses will be fundamental to the sport's integrity - now and in any wagering future.

The Jockey Club, which runs a widely respected racing and gambling operation, is well positioned to become a partner in any development of legal betting.

The club's direct return to the community in 2014-15 of more than HK$25 billion including taxes, duties and charitable donations, is tempting evidence of public benefit.

But, while mainlanders are significant players in legal betting here and in Macau, it would be optimistic to expect a change in the official anti-gambling stance any time soon, especially while graft remains a high-profile problem.