Federation Continues Push for Harmonization

Official says 2016 Asian Racing Conference will be checkpoint for progress.

The Asian Racing Conference slated for January 2016 in Mumbai, India, will be a checkpoint to determine progress on key issues facing international racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said April 24.

Engelbrecht-Bresges is chairman of the Asian Racing Federation, vice chairman of the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities, and chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. He was interviewed by Blood-Horse in Hong Kong during the run-up to the April 26 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin.

The federation includes 21 full-member racing jurisdictions and four associate or affiliate members. It meets roughly every 18 months. The 2016 meeting will be held Jan. 24-26.

Issues addressed at the 2014 conference in Hong Kong, including international movement and quarantine of horses and rules surrounding use of medication, remain on the table, Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

"There is an ongoing dialog. We have a three- to-five-year plan," he said. "The Mumbai meeting is an opportunity to share this and to accelerate and facilitate this plan. It is very important that we look at further globalization of racing, and India, like South Africa, is a very important player in these areas."

Specifically, he said, India and South Africa find it difficult to participate fully in international competition because of stringent quarantine rules. The ARF, Engelbrecht-Bresges said, has been working diligently to reach consensus within the industry about regulation of the movement of horses. But government regulators remain a hurdle to implementation of change, especially with many jurisdictions cutting back on staffing during times of budget deficits.

"When it comes to government," he said, "you cannot base (change) on beliefs. You have to base it on science. This is why we have put a team of experts together to explain the science."

A potentially workable concept for markets not now open to international movement, he said, is a "bubble" environment in which horses are moved into a jurisdiction and held within a strict perimeter away from other livestock except for actual racing. Meydan has demonstrated such an approach twice, bringing race meets to Chengdu in mainland China and then returning the horses and infrastructure to Dubai.

While that works in specific circumstances, Engelbrecht-Bresges said it really is "a good teaser, a good first step." An expansion of that idea could be a hub for international movement and quarantine, he said, with Dubai a likely candidate because of its existing facilities, transportation access, and rack record.

"Science, process, and procedures will carry the day," he said.

On medication, Engelbrecht-Bresges noted work on laboratories to standardize testing procedures and results. But said there are variations in permitted medication in jurisdictions around the world, with the United States a notable outlier in permitting some forms of race-day medication not allowed in most of the rest of the world.

"I'm optimistic that we have made some progress," he said. "We want this to be as much as possible a collaborative effort."

Engelbrecht-Bresges said he hopes reforms and standardization will be based on "the perception and reputation" of each jurisdiction within the world racing community and that there won't be a need for enforcement mechanisms.