Helping China improve its racing and equestrian facilities and standards was among the final discussions at the 35th Asian Racing Conference, which drew to a close in Hong Kong on Thursday.
Equestrian sport and racing has a short history in China, but Tian Hua, Deputy Secretary General of the China Equestrian Association (CEA) said racing was “picking up rapidly” and her organisation was working to actively promote the development of the sport.
Tian spoke of the Chinese Government’s approach to the international development of horse racing and outlined the official structure under which horse racing is organised in China, with the sport coming under the jurisdiction of the China Equestrian Association, the officially permitted body under the auspices of China’s General Administration of Sport.
“The sport has already become a key project in the development of Chinese sport and has gathered support from the government,” she said.
The China Equestrian Association is aiming to improve training for participants and to enhance the regulatory and technical standard of Chinese equestrians.
Professor Han Guocai, Vice-Chairman of the China Horse Industry Association, told delegates that China had 29 indigenous breeds; 13 new breeds since the 1950s and 10 imported breeds, including about 3000 thoroughbreds, of which about 400 had been registered in the China Stud Book. He noted that China had 16 racetracks with sufficient facilities to host horse races.
He said: “We are keen to learn, to upgrade, to improve; and we want to contribute to horseracing in China and the world.”
But challenges faced by the industry included a lack of qualified vets and clinical facilities, as well as access to medications and the regulatory restrictions that hinder the involvement of overseas veterinarians, said Dr Chris Riggs, HKJC’s Head of Veterinary Clinical Services.
But there were also some positive developments, he said, including the commitment of dedicated young vets on the ground. “The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a genuine wish to support horse welfare in Mainland China, develop relevant skills and share our skills and knowledge,” Riggs said.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges chaired the second of the final sessions. He said it was important the Asian Racing Federation helped China in establishing a regulatory framework with a major focus on building capabilities in the country.
HKJC Executive Director of Racing William A Nader updated delegates about the Club’s ongoing Conghua training centre development. “This is one of the biggest projects in the history of the Jockey Club. Our training centre at Conghua has one purpose: to sustain and support the great racing that we enjoy in Hong Kong.”
The session also heard from Teo Ah Khing, Chairman of China Horse Club. A further panel discussion brought comment from Patrick Baker, Project Manager at Meydan, who told delegates about logistical issues of the recent Meydan Group race meeting staged at Chengdu; IFHA President Louis Romanet, who highlighted the need for a central horse racing authority to implement and regulate national rules of racing; Dr Edward Tse of Gao Feng Advisory Company and Michael Connolly of Red Mills Feeds, who described doing business in China as “a rollercoaster of learning.”
• The conference concluded on Thursday night with a dazzling closing ceremony at Sha Tin.
ARF Chairman, Dr Koji Sato, presiding over his final ARC in his current role, thanked the hosts for a memorable week. “On behalf of my Executive Council, I would like to thank our host, Mr Brian Stevenson, Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges and the 35th ARC Organising Committee, and the entire staff of the Hong Kong Jockey Club for providing us with the opportunity to gather here in Hong Kong.”
Andrew Harding, Secretary-General of the ARF, announced that Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges will succeed Dr Sato as Chairman of the organisation. Taking up the role as Chairman of the ARF, this will be a second term of office for Engelbrecht-Bresges, who was previously ARF Chairman from 2007 to 2009. His term begins with immediate effect. Engelbrecht-Bresges is also Vice-Chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
“I feel very honoured to take office as the Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and I would like to thank my colleagues for the great support and trust they have put in me,” he said. “Racing has a major challenge ahead but I feel that the ARF has always taken great leadership in meeting such challenges, and I’m confident that with the great teamwork we have on the ARF Council we will manage these challenges.”
The final act of the 35th ARC was the official handover of the Asian Racing Federation flag to the host of the 36th ARC, India, which will hold the event in Mumbai in early 2016.