DEVELOPING the international status of horse racing should be a priority for Mr Wong, legislator and member of the board of stewards Ronald Arculli said last night. While racing in the territory had 'gone from strength to strength' the new chief would have to look into international aspects of the sport. Racing in Asia - except in Japan, Australia and New Zealand - was not as developed as in North America and Europe. Although those involved in the sport in Hong Kong, including himself, thought it was 'pretty good', they were not so proud they did not think the standard could be lifted. Philip Johnston, director of racing for the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, said the 1997 handover was among the biggest issues facing Mr Wong. The change in rule would keep Mr Wong busy and he expected racing to continue prospering. 'I think racing can only develop and he will be very keen to do that,' said Mr Johnston. 'I think obviously a man of his ability will settle in and steer the ship through 1997 and beyond without any problems.' Mr Wong's strong background in vehicles rather than horses and gambling was a plus, said independent legislator Paul Cheng Ming-fun. 'You don't have to be a gambler to run that job. In fact preferably he should not be a gambler,' said Mr Cheng, a voting member of the club, which prevents the chief executive from betting in Hong Kong. He said the club had been well run by the executive and stewards. He doubted the transition period would become an issue for the club's operations. 'Racing is a major pastime for the Hong Kong community both as a leisure time activity and as a voluntary tax measure,' said Mr Cheng. He said the jockey club played a 'sort of recycling role' with its contribution to charities, which were worth about $1.2 billion in 1994-95. 'Without the Hong Kong Jockey Club's money for charities we might have to raise our personal income tax a couple of points,' said Mr Cheng. The racing and lottery activities of the club are major revenue earners for the Hong Kong Government and are not expected to be affected by the handover. Racing is allowed in China but gambling on races is prohibited. 'So it remains to be seen how racing will develop in China and that is one of the imponderables,' said Mr Johnston. 'I'm sure the Jockey Club will be part and parcel of what happens in the future.'