Dubai and Chinese companies are partners in an ambitious, 10-year US$3.5 billion project that would create an international equestrian complex in the seaside city of Tianjin. The development, now named Tianjin Horse City, would include a racetrack, an equestrian college, breeding and auction facilities, equestrian sport venues, shopping and entertainment center, and a five- to seven-star hotel.
Meydan City Corp., which developed the multi-billion dollar Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, was reportedly contacted by the Chinese government, according to the British-based Telegraph.com.uk news website.
“Horse racing is a brand-new industry in China,” Teo Ah Khing, the managing director of project partner TAK Design Consultants, told Telegraph.com.uk. “They have little dots all over the country of horse racing and breeding but no structure.”
TAK Design is a United Arab Emirates/Malaysian design planning and engineering firm that provided the technical expertise in planning and design for the Meydan Racecourse. The company is the master-planner for Meydan City and the architect for the Meydan grandstand, which includes a five star-plus luxury hotel, more than 10 restaurants, a Meydan Museum and Gallery, a covered car parking facility for more than 10,000, and is home of the Dubai Racing Club and Emirates Racing Authority.
Meydan Racecourse opened this year and hosted its first Dubai World Cup.
According to the Dubai Racing Club, the Tianjin project proposal calls for the equestrian college, breeding facilities, and feed plant to be completed and put into trial operation by end of 2011. The hotel, clubhouse, shopping center, and entertainment center is tentatively set to be completed by the end of 2012. Proposals on policy change that would allow for the growth of commercial horse racing are not expected to begin until 2013.
“The commencement of the construction of a horse racing field will depend on the decision of the State on commercial horse racing,” the Dubai Racing Club reported. “The group will be fully prepared for such a construction.”
The project is far from a sure thing. Horse racing was introduced to China by the British and by the 1930s Shanghai was home to one of the world’s largest racetracks, according to the Telegraph. Racing came to an abrupt halt in 1949 when the Communist revolution took over the country and banned the sport along with all gambling. China made horse racing legal again in 2008, but wagering is limited to lottery-style scratch-off tickets that reveal the post number of a horse in a given race. The ticket is a winner if the horse in that post wins.
A report last year published by the Kentucky China Trade Centre took a pessimistic view of the prospect of growing horse racing in China.
“We cannot see a bright future for commercial horse racing, horse racing gambling and racetracks in mainland China in terms of the central government’s attitude towards the issue and the circumstances of laws prohibiting it,” the report said.