Hong Kong Jockey Club Under Starter's Orders With New Mainland Training Center
The possibility of regular racing on China's mainland "is a distant dream, facing a myriad of challenges extending from financial viability to basic horse care and a 'matrix' of multitier government obstacles," according to Michael Cox of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. There "was a degree of optimism" when Chinese officials at the Asian Racing Conference in Hong Kong last week "urged the international community to help them build a racing industry." But Hong Kong Jockey Club officials "warned of problems" -- and they "were in a good position to judge." After months of tough negotiation, the HKJC "finally worked out details with mainland authorities for its new training centre in the Conghua district of Guangzhou," due to open in '17. Racing "does exist on the mainland, but it is a largely unregulated, disorganised, factionalised and under-resourced pastime, with a lack of properly educated participants." It is "merely a small-time hobbyist pursuit up against Hong Kong's high-stakes scene." The "embryonic nature" of the relationship between the sport's world governing body, the Int'l Federation of Horse Racing Authority and the leading mainland authority -- the Chinese Horse Industry Association -- "was perhaps best described" by IFHA Chair Louis Romanet, who said, "At least we now have a phone number for them." Professor Han Guocai, Vice Chair of the Horse Industry Association, said, "We are keen to learn, to upgrade, to improve, and we want to contribute to horse racing in China and the world." But Han's mention of a project to develop horse racing generating "100 billion yuan ($16B) in GDP, 40 billion yuan ($6B) in tax and three million workers" seemed to be "taken with a pinch of salt" (SCMP, 5/13).