Hong Kong racing officials have big dreams for a planned Asian Racing Series.
"We want, in the end, to have these races build up as the world turf championship," said Hong Kong Jockey Club Director of Racing Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges.
Englebrecht-Bresges is one of the driving forces behind plans for a series, sketched out at the recent Asian Racing Conference in Bangkok. Discussing the idea during the run-up to this year's Hong Kong International Races, he said he hopes existing events throughout Asia can be grouped together as a means of sorting out the best horses in the region. If that can be accomplished, he said, Asia's best could be an inviting target for the best grass runners in the world by the time of Hong Kong's signature events each December.
"There is a big gap in how classification of horses is done in different countries," he said, adding that the lack of uniformity makes it difficult to slot Asian horses into a world ranking scheme. A series, requiring more uniformity among racing jurisdictions on many fronts, would go a ways toward closing that gap, he said.
"It is vital for the future of racing (in Asia) that horse racing is recognized as a world-class sport," He said.
While business plans are being drawn both for a series linking existing races and for Breeders' Cup-like "showcase day," Englebrecht-Bresges said he favors using existing events for reasons of both economy and expediency. A series, he said, could be mounted without initial sponsorship and be in place by 2003.