By Bob Kieckhefer
Officials of Dubai-based Meydan Group and Chinese authorities March 28 announced plans to hold an international race meeting in October in Chengdu in southwestern China.
Few details were offered other than plans to use existing facilities and hopes to build the race meeting from scratch to something on the model of the 18-year-old Dubai World Cup meeting.
"We think China deserves world-class racing," Saeed Al Tayer, chairman of the Meydan Group, told a news conference held in the Royal Enclosure at the Meydan Racecourse.
The event also was attended by officials from Chengdu, where the meeting is to be held, and the Wenjiang District of the Sichuan Province.
Al Tayer said many details remain to be worked out, including the number and conditions of races, purse money, and quarantine issues.
He said Chinese officials strongly back the program, which, like racing in Dubai, is expected to not feature wagering as part of the program. "We have run successful, world-class racing without such activity" in Dubai, he noted.
Participants said an October meeting would be conducted with existing facilities, noting Chengdu was the site of the Jimma Equestrian Sports and Culture Festival and also served in 2011 and 2012 as the site of the China Equestrian Festival. There is a turf racing course on site.
Participants, Al Tayer said, will include "horses and horsemen that frequent the Meydan racing season" in Dubai, although the October date could conflict with other international race meetings such as the Arc weekend in Paris, Champions Day in England, and the Breeders' Cup World Championships in the United States.
Al Tayer said the ongoing World Cup week events, which have drawn representatives of many of the world's racing jurisdictions, provide an opportunity to shape a Chinese racing program cooperatively.
Ultimately, Al Tayer said, the goal is to jump-start a racing industry in mainland China.
"Racing is not enough by itself," he said. "We intend to bring in the industry of horse racing. We intend to bring in breeding, sales. The whole industry of horse racing will go there."
Horse racing has thrived in Hong Kong, now a Special Administrative Region of China, since its early years as a British colony. Previous efforts to expand the sport to the mainland have come to naught but Al Tayer said this effort has the full support of Meydan's teams and the existing infrastructure of Chengdu and the Chinese government.