Jockey Club gets deal for training centre in Conghua, Guangzhou, over the line
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has thrashed out special policies with mainland officials over the movement of horses and the use of drugs, clearing obstacles for the opening of its new training centre in the Conghua district of Guangzhou in 2017.
A disease-free zone and quarantine arrangements are also in place for the centre, which has the potential to house 1,500 horses and become a fully operational racetrack.
The Conghua complex will break new ground for the HKJC, helping it to establish a significant presence beyond Hong Kong borders for the first time.
The 150-hectare site was originally slated to open this year, but heavy rainfall through a crucial 12-month period of construction delayed the project.
Officials also admit they underestimated the complexities of dealing with mainland bureaucracy and an environment impact study.
Officials announced at last week's Asian Racing Conference that the centre would be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season.
Horses will be considered a "temporary import" when moving between facilities and will be tax free, officials said. The Jockey Club has also gained permission to import therapeutic drugs for treating horses at the centre.
The establishment of a disease-free zone and quarantine arrangements will allow horses to be shipped back and forth between Sha Tin and Conghua.
Unlike previous attempts to establish a racing presence elsewhere with "one-off" fixtures, HKJC executive director of racing Bill Nader said "permanent protocols" had been implemented.
"Once we arrive, we are there to stay and it is a 365-day per year operation. That's an important point of differentiation," he said.
There is scope to create a fully operational racetrack if the HKJC was granted permission to operate there. "We have that built-in flexibility - it could become a much larger training centre, or a racecourse," Nader said.