Former NYRA executive Bill Nader is visiting from Hong Kong, where he’s director of racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It’s been almost three months since Nader relocated. Stopping by the press box, he pauses to relate what he's learned so far about Asian culture.
1. Driving a Lexus in Hong Kong, where gas costs $10 a gallon, is scary. There are too many traffic lanes. “If you’re facing the right direction, that’s good, but you’ve gotta know which lane to be in,” he says. “As I’m driving, I’m writing down directions on what to do all the time. GPS is not an option; it’s just too confusing. The only way to learn is by your own mistakes.”
2. Beer can be purchased for $3 on track. A McDonald’s value meal with chicken sandwich, fries, and coke will run you $3.25. And “I can make pretty good fried rice now," he says.
3. Drainage on Hong Kong’s turf courses is phenomenal, says Nader. “There was one day when it rained, just a downpour, like six inches in less than 24 hours, but it all stopped before the first race, which is key. All the guys were like, ‘Watch this, it’ll be no problem.’ By the fourth race, the turf was good to firm,” he recalls.
4. The average off-track handle per race is more than $11 million, while the average on-track handle is $1.5 million.
5. There are 78 racing days per year, the season runs from September to June, and there is no racing in July or August.
6. Field sizes are big: 12.6 starters per race, and that’s the norm for competitive, high-quality racing.
7. The fans are as passionate as they come.
8. American racing could take a tip from Hong Kong’s relentless pursuit of integrity. Nader said the stewards make enormous efforts to protect the integrity not only of racing but also of wagering, which is at such a high volume.
9. We could also learn from the transparency, Nader says, since the stewards give written report after each race.
Considering the recent actions (or lack thereof) from stewards at Saratoga in several races on the Aug. 3 card, implementing a similar process in the United States might not be such a bad idea.