The Macau Jockey Club (MJC) will miss out on a multimillion dollar payday for the second year running after the cancellation of the Hong Kong simulcast of the Macau Hong Kong Trophy.

The first leg of the annual interport series between Hong Kong and Macau horses is the sole Macau race day offered for betting by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The MJC netted somewhere in the vicinity of HK$5-8 million from the race day in 2019, while the interport series was cancelled because of Covid-19 in 2020.

This year’s Macau Hong Kong Trophy – scheduled for March 14 – was officially cancelled by the MJC last Tuesday after entries where “adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Jockey Club director of racing business and operations Bill Nader. Photo: Kenneth Chan

When the MJC was unable to guarantee officials in Hong Kong that it could still offer a simulcast programme, the Jockey Club had no choice but to pull the pin.

“Initially when the Hong Kong horses couldn’t travel to Macau due to travel restrictions the plan was to go ahead and honour the commitment to the simulcast day,” said Jockey Club director of racing business and operations Bill Nader.

“Then subsequent to that Macau cancelled the Macau Hong Kong Trophy and then we pressed them about what the programme would look like and we needed a commitment by the close of business on Wednesday.

“On Thursday they told us that they didn’t have the approval they needed to be able to simulcast the races to Hong Kong. I’m not sure why.

“We told them that we couldn’t wait any longer because we had to make alternate arrangements and we had to notify the Home Affairs Bureau of the situation.”

While it seems the ultimate stumbling block was the fact the MJC could not get the government approval required to send their product to Hong Kong, the card it has slated for March 14 is far from the standard required by the Jockey Club to warrant a simulcast.

While previous Macau Hong Kong Trophy meetings have included the Chairman’s Challenge Cup alongside the feature – both Macau Group Ones – the highest-rated race on this year’s programme is a 1,350m event on the sand for gallopers rated 70 and above.

“Even if they just had a programme that fit the criteria that would have given us the comfort that we were honouring the spirit of the approval to put forward a simulcast day,” Nader said.

Joao Moreira returns after saluting aboard Romantic Touch in the 2018 Macau Hong Kong Trophy. Photo: Kenneth Chan

“Basically [to justify a simulcast into Hong Kong] it has to be a race day of global significance, which honestly it’s not, and it has to have Hong Kong runners or Hong Kong participation, which in no fault of Macau, it wasn’t going to have this year.

“[We needed to] have a programme that would at least have some higher quality races, but we didn’t get assurance on that.”

Nader confirmed there will be no meeting simulcast from Macau this season and the Jockey Club is exploring possible replacements, with one option believed to be the Group One Osaka Hai from Japan in April.

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It is the latest in a string of blows for the MJC, who missed a number of meetings in early 2020 because of Covid-19 and hasn’t had its traditional simulcast in Singapore since the start of this season.

Meanwhile, Nader said the Jockey Club will lodge a request in April for the meetings it plans to simulcast during the Hong Kong off-season after receiving approval from the government last month to offer wagering on up to 14 additional race days.

Historically, no overseas meetings were allowed to be simulcast during the Hong Kong racing off-season but that changed last year with a one-off allowance for the Kranji Mile card from Singapore and feature events such as Glorious Goodwood, the Ebor Festival and the Shergar Cup are expected to be on offer to Hong Kong punters in 2021.