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The club would like to clarify that it has not been involved in any discussions with the Kaohsiung City government regarding their plans to develop horse racing – Jockey Club statement
The Jockey Club rarely makes public statements in response to media reports, so it is notable there have been two in the past three weeks distancing itself from anything to do with racing in Taiwan.
The first came on Wednesday, January 30.
“It has come to the attention of the HKJC that there is a Taiwan news report quoting a Kaohsiung government official who said that the club had sent a delegation to meet with the Kaohsiung government today for an exchange of views on horse racing and entertainment,” the statement said.
“The club would like to clarify that the news report was not accurate. The club has not sent any delegation to meet with any Kaohsiung officials.”
The second was delivered on Monday, February 18.
“It has come to the attention of the HKJC that, in an interview with Taiwan’s Mirror Magazine, the Mayor of Kaohsiung, Han Kuo-yu, said the club has expressed interest in the development of horse racing in Kaohsiung,” the statement said.
“He said the club has assisted them to chart the requirements for land, space and equipment etc.
“The club would like to clarify that it has not been involved in any discussions with the Kaohsiung City government regarding their plans to develop horse racing.
“Nor has the club participated in any related project, including assessing the requirements for land, space and equipment as mentioned by the mayor.
“The participation of any former employee(s) of the club in the development of horse racing in Kaohsiung, as well as any advice they have or may provide, is in their own individual capacity and not as a representative of the club.”
First of all, it is clear a person, or people, previously associated with the Jockey Club are consulting officials in Kaohsiung about what would be required to get horse racing off the ground.
Typically, you would think the Jockey Club might be happy to lend a hand, but given the current political climate, it is an absolute non-starter.
Without going into the history of it all, it is fair to say the relationship between mainland China and Taiwan is complicated and the Jockey Club is determined not to upset anybody in Beijing given the amount of time, effort and resources it has invested to make the Conghua Training Centre a reality.
The HK$3.7 billion project, situated to the northeast of Guangzhou, has been a decade in the making and the first “showcase” race meeting (with no wagering, as that is not allowed in mainland) will be held on March 23.
The Jockey Club is leaving no stone unturned to ensure everything goes smoothly, holding a full dress rehearsal (with barrier trials instead of races) on Saturday.
Big-name riders such as Zac Purton and Joao Moreira are making the trip, giant video screens have been hired – everything from mounting yard protocols to post-race presentations will be put into practice. The first trial gets under way at 2.30pm – exactly the same time the first race on March 23 is scheduled for. There will be five trials because there are five races – everything on the run-down is mirrored.
But just to highlight how serious the Jockey Club is about getting everything right – there will be government officials observing on Saturday – there is a rehearsal for the rehearsal on Friday.
So given the lengths the Jockey Club is prepared to go to ensure the Conghua venture is a success – particularly in the eyes of those decision-makers in the mainland – publicly refuting any link to horse racing in Taiwan to avoid antagonising anyone in Beijing seems pretty straightforward.