The Hong Kong Jockey Club 2016-17 season, driven in part by massively increased international wagering, was so powerful it surprised even CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.
"Our growth this year has been extraordinary. It has surprised me how strong it has been," The CEO said as the season closed with the July 16 meeting at Sha Tin.
"This time last year we weathered a small economic storm that impacted the region and resulted in a 2% dip in our overall turnover, our first decline in eight seasons. To come back from that with a new record of HK$117.456 billion for the season, up 10.7% on 2015-16, is a tremendous performance."
The HK$117.456 billion equates to slightly more than US$15.25 billion.
Sunday's turnover was HK$1.858 billion (about $241 million), a record for an 11-race program in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's season was extended by five days, running 88 race days total at Sha Tin in the New Territories and the iconic Happy Valley in-town track. But Engelbrecht-Bresges said a massive increase in commingled wagering from overseas had far more to do with the record handle than the added dates, noting the extension resulted in only 22 additional races.
"If you look at last year the total turnover from commingling was HK$3.47 billion (about $450 million), which was 3.3% of the total," he said. "This year, with our expanding portfolio of partners, total turnover from commingling was HK$6.5 billion (about $845 million), an astounding increase of 87.1% and 5.7% (respectively) of the total."
The HKJC lobbied for years before gaining government approval of commingled simulcasting and revenue from that source has grown steadily through an aggressive marketing campaign aided by large, competitive fields, huge pools, and a preponderance of turf racing.
The season provided some international highlights on the track, too, especially in December's four group 1 events comprising the Longines Hong Kong International Races.
"We have witnessed some exceptional sport this season," the CEO said. "Our international races were again world-class in December thanks to Maurice in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) and Satono Crown's defeat of Highland Reel in an outstanding Hong Kong Vase (G1). The form of that race has held up very strongly since."
Rapper Dragon, who swept the HKJC's 4-year-old classic series before suffering a fatal injury in the Champions Mile (G1), was named Hong Kong's Horse of the Year. The season also saw the retirement of established stars Aerovelocity, Able Friend (AUS), and Designs on Rome.
John Size ran away with the trainer title, saddling a record 95 winners. Joao Moreira also established a record by taking the jockey championship with 171 victories.