Racing world's equivalent of G8 summit will talk horse and more
Meeting is racing world's equivalent of G8 summit, says Jockey Club chief
Hong Kong is fast becoming the centre of the horse racing world, and the Asian Racing Conference - which opens tomorrow at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai - has grown into perhaps the most important meeting of its kind for the sport.
The Jockey Club holds an incredibly privileged position compared with most other governing bodies in the sport. It has the exclusive licence for race betting in a city full of gambling-mad citizens.
The club has used its enviable position to grow and become a world leader in many areas. More than 700 delegates from around the globe will converge on the city for discussions on a broad range of issues, and not just issues relating to the sport in Asia. The ARC's reach has broadened to include far more than just topics pertaining to the immediate region. More than 100 officials from Europe will attend the conference, as well as 35 representatives from the United States.
Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges described the importance of the ARC as being racing's equivalent of the Group of Eight summit.
Of course, more traditional aspects of racing will be discussed at length - veterinary care, the use of therapeutic drugs and technical aspects of wagering. Also on the discussion list will be the integrity measures used in other sports.
The first seminar of the conference will be on the rather dry topic of racetrack operations, for which more than 250 people have registered. But high on the agenda at many of the seminars will be a discussion on ways to extend the appeal of horse racing to a new, younger audience through new television coverage and marketing.
Most of all, Engelbrecht-Bresges sees the five-day conference as a chance to share the Jockey Club's amazing success with the rest of the world.
"It's a chance to pool our knowledge to help everyone,' he said. "My view is that we are not in competition in this - even if things in Hong Kong are wonderful, if the industry worldwide is not in good shape, that limits us as well."
Of particular interest to the rest of the racing world will be discussions on racing in mainland China - seen as a salvation for the sport by some, but in reality a pipe dream while gambling continues to be outlawed.
The ARC will allow officials from within mainland China's relatively disorganised racing scene to deliver straightforward information and hopefully cut through the rumours and spin.