The China Horse Club will stage four races Sunday, Aug. 21, at the Yiqi Race Course in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, featuring club-owned horses imported from Europe and New Zealand and ridden by jockeys from around the world.
The event is linked to a pair of local festivals—the Chinese Equine Cultural Festival and the Ordos Nadam—and is primarily geared to wealthy Chinese members of the club, giving them a chance to participate in person in the "livestyle" experience that is a major part of the China Horse Club's attraction. But a spokesman said they also hope to attract several thousand local racing fans just to watch the action.
The races will be staged on a 2,000-meter sand track outside the Ordos "New City," a largely uninhabited urban center sometimes referred to as the "Ghost City" of China. Built as part of a central planning scheme, the area never attracted the expected population when the local mining industry went into a steep slump.
Two of the races will be 1,000 meters, a third at 1,200 and the day's feature will be run at 2,000 meters. Riders include Australians Michael Cahill and Daniel Moor, Myrzabek Kappushev from Russia, Reshawn Latchman from Barbados and Daniel Muscutt from England.
The Club has imported 120 horses to the Yiqi backstretch—89 from New Zealand, including many who just turned 2 years old by Southern Hemisphere rules, and 39 from Europe. They are intended to remain in China to participate in local racing through the end of the season in October, then emerge for the 2017 season.
The Ordos event has attracted enough attention that the China Horse Club plans to stream the races live internationally—a first in its series of mainland China race meetings.
For the longer term, the club's patronage of racing on the mainland is designed to position itself as a major player in the future of Chinese racing. While there is significant racing now, the government maintains a longstanding ban on wagering, which has stifled development of the sport.
"Wagering is a sensitive topic here," said Jarred Coetzee, head trainer for the China Horse Club. "I'm sure it will come up. There's too many people who live their racing here … And they have this beautiful infrastructure for it, all over China—beautiful places. They build it and then they just leave it. It's all there. Everyone is just waiting."
Other players are involved, too. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, one of the largest wagering hubs in the world, is in the final stages of building a large training center on the Mainland, north of Hong Kong—a facility widely perceived as easily convertible to a racing facility if the opportunity arises. And the HKJC also is hard at work training infrastructure personnel on the mainland and regularizing the Chinese stud book.
And the Meydan group in Dubai has conducted a one-off race meeting in western China for three years.
The China Horse Club, founded in 2013, quickly has grown its visibility worldwide, securing working agreements and sponsorships with many major racing sales organizations. The group earlier in August was the leading buyer at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale with five purchases totaling $2,450,000. Among its purchases is an $800,000 colt by Tapit out of Storm Dixie and a $750,000 colt out of Fashion Cat.
The organization also maintains leisure facilities in Australia and the Alps and recently signed an agreement to build a $2.6 billion mixed-use development on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia that will include a racetrack and stabling facilities sufficient to stage an international race meeting.
For now, the goal is convince China Horse Club members their substantial annual dues are a good investment—by showing them live racing and encouraging their support for expansion of the industry throughout China.
"Occasions like the Chinese Equine Cultural Festival Ordos are vitally important at the grassroots level in developing new interest in Thoroughbred racing," said Eden Harrington, vice president of the China Horse Club and head of partnerships and membership.