The China Horse Club's annual cultural festival Aug. 19-20 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, mixes a celebration for CHC members, a bit of racing, and a message of international unity.
The festival has developed a broad swath of support from racing jurisdictions, sales houses, and other racing entities as it enters its sixth year. Organizers hope that support will translate into a brighter future for racing in mainland China. This year's lineup features four races with a cast of riders from around the globe.
It will be the second festival staged in Ordos, located in the grasslands of the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, a horse-friendly area where, last year, some 20,000 people packed the Yiqi Racecourse grandstand to watch races and festivities that also were streamed live to more than one million people worldwide, according to CHC estimates.
CHC founder and chairman Teo Ah Khing describes the China Equine Cultural Festival theme, "Bringing the World to China, China to the World," as an opportunity to bring his club's members together in a common setting to celebrate local heritage and to demonstrate grass-roots support for the expansion of racing in China to the Chinese authorities.
"The CECF was created to be a crucible for people of different cultures and backgrounds to come together. It is a natural platform that continues to promote exchanges in business, in racing, in lifestyle, and more," said Teo, who also is chairman of event organizer Inner Mongolia Desert Star Horse Industries.
CHC's supporters or partnersinclude Goffs and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing from Ireland, Inglis and Magic Millions from Australia, Keeneland from the United States, New Zealand Bloodstock, and Tattersalls from the United Kingdom.
"More than 60 different individuals and organizations have thrown their considerable support behind the CECF since it began and the support of this year's leading riders Daniel Moor, Sherman Brown, Alexander Ivanskoy ,and Sheldon Rodrigo lifts the tally of international riders to compete at the CECF to 20," Teo said.
Britain's Anglo Hibernian Bloodstock Insurance Aug. 14 was announced as title sponsor for one of the festival's four races, the Anglo Hibernian CECF International Breeders' Cup, a 1,000-meter sprint over the sand track at Yiqi Racecourse.
"Anglo Hibernian has consistently marked itself as virtuous and professional and an ideal partner for aspiring Chinese racehorse owners," said Eden Harrington, spokesman for the organizing committee of the 2017 CECF Ordos.
While the annual appearance of ranking international jockeys lends credence, the races themselves are of secondary importance to the event, seen primarily as an opportunity for CHC to bring home to its members the value of their investment.
That value equation has escalated noticeably this year as horses owned by CHC, in whole or in partnership, have had notable success worldwide, including victory in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) by the Bob Baffert-trained Abel Tasman. The Quality Road filly's breeder, Clearsky Farms, remains as a part owner.
CHC also participates in ownerships, among others, with WinStar Farm, which has been an active participant in past editions of the CECF.
Teo hopes the success of the CECF will open the eyes of the Chinese government to the potential for commercial racing in China. While race meetings currently exist in several jurisdictions around the mainland, they remain low key in the absence of wagering opportunities. Teo said the involvement of major players from around the world helps to bolster recognition of the sport's potential.
"The result of their support in previous years is being seen now, as more and more Chinese buy into Thoroughbreds and participate in the sport," he said. "And the result of their support given this year will play out in the coming years."
CHC, in addition to its efforts in mainland China and horse ownership throughout the world, also provides members "lifestyle" opportunities, including access to luxury facilities in Australia and Switzerland. CHC also is building a track as part of a planned expansive "Pearl of the Caribbean" development on the island of Saint Lucia.
"The success the China Horse Club is having on the international scene has only been possible because of the CECF," Teo said. "When (CHC members) see the international community coming to support them in China, they are certainly appreciative."