The Hong Kong Jockey Club plans to stage "showcase racing carnivals" starting in 2019 at its new training center at Conghua on the Chinese mainland, HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said Dec. 7.
Races featuring Jockey Club horses would be a significant step in upgrading the quality and visibility of the sport on the mainland. Engelbrecht-Bresges told a media briefing the concept worked out with local government officials calls for temporary spectator facilities and relatively modest levels of competition—at least at first.
"This gives us all the options" to expand the scope and quality of the events, he said. "But we must do it step by step."
Ultimately, he said, the carnivals could demonstrate on the mainland "our world-class racing and its operations, ranging from world-class horses and jockeys to expertise in horse care."
He emphasized the Jockey Club does not propose wagering on the races, which, he noted "is against the law in the Chinese mainland."
Rather, he said, the plan is designed to enhance the tourism lure of Conghua, which is situated in a hot springs spa area about 3 1/2 hours north of Hong Kong.
"We firmly believe we can strengthen the positioning of Conghua as a tourist destination, giving Conghua a unique branding similar to Baden-Baden with hot springs and racing, and create significant value for the region by attracting high-value tourists," Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
Baden-Baden is a German spa resort city in the Black Forest that hosts international racing in a high society setting. Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., and Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., also have built their racing operations near hot springs spas.
No firm date has been set for the initial racing carnival at Conghua, Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
The training center itself is scheduled to open in August 2018 with facilities for 664 horses, a 2,000-meter turf track, two all-weather tracks, and an uphill gallop. It also will have health and rehabilitation facilities, open paddocks, and amenities for HKJC owners and trainers.
Horses will move back and forth between Hong Kong and Conghua through cross-border protocols between the two governments, with internationally approved safeguards against the spread of any equine disease.
The HKJC has invested nearly $1 billion in the center and plans another multimillion-dollar renovation of Sha Tin, its main race track in Hong Kong, once the center is up and running. Because of space considerations, the Sha Tin renovations would be impossible without having the Conghua center as an alternate stabling area, HKJC officials said.