The 37th Asian Racing Conference commenced in Seoul the evening of May 14 with a colorful opening ceremony.
After the chief delegates of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) members took to the stage, the CEO and chairman of the Korea Racing Authority, Kim Nag Soon, welcomed delegates and invited guests to Korea and delivered the opening address.
"In the last 13 years since the previous ARC conference in Korea, we have strived for excellence and we have been successful with the achievement of being promoted to Part II status. Open door and international competition policies have, in return, resulted in Korean horses running in reputable international races such as those at the Dubai World Cup Carnival," said the Korea Racing Authority CEO. "Our aim for the near future is for Korea to be elevated to Part 1 of the Blue Book and the promotion and the production of Group 1 horses.
"This conference is a true celebration of Asian racing. Korean racing will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022 and we are committed to becoming one of the best racing authorities in the world. I am looking forward to intriguing discussions in the upcoming sessions of this Asian Racing Conference."
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, ARF chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, welcomed assembled delegates and invited guests to the conference on behalf of the ARF.
"I am pleased to welcome you all to Korea for the 37th Asian Racing Conference. I would like to begin by thanking the chairman of the organizing committee, Mr. Kim Nag Soon, and all of his many colleagues from the Korea Racing Authority for their tireless efforts to ensure a wonderful week," Engelbrecht-Bresges said. "From our experience at the races on Sunday and today's bureau meetings, it is quite clear that we are set for an excellent conference."
Engelbrecht-Bresges commended Korea on the incredible progress made since hosting the conference 13 years ago, and highlighted the substantial achievements within the Asian Racing Federation since the 36th ARC in Mumbai, especially in the areas of anti-doping and anti-illegal betting. The ARF's policy position on anabolic steroids was adopted by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) in October 2017, and recently a formal IFHA Reference Laboratory program was established. Further achievements include the establishment of the ARF's Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce and the major progress made in overcoming barriers to horse exports.
Engelbrecht-Bresges set the stage for the upcoming week. "We have a great deal of ground to cover over the next three days, but with history as our guide from past ARCs, I have no doubt that the 37th ARC will provide fruitful discussions and a path towards progress. We gather this week under the theme: 'Innovate, Collaborate, Transform'; words that resonate here in Korea, a country synonymous with innovation and energy. In the past two years, we have witnessed the accelerated growth of Korean racing, making serious efforts to internationalize, and succeeding in welcoming horses from all corners to compete.
"Our dynamic industry, which spans many sectors of the global economy, faces a series of modern challenges and ever-growing threats from agile competition. Racing must be moving ever forward. We must innovate, we must collaborate, and we must transform. Over the next three days we will discuss the strategies and opportunities being pursued by the wagering industry, how to better reach and expand our fan base, and how racing is addressing a series of threats to the integrity of the sport; from gene-doping to illegal betting. We will explore issues of safety and welfare, both for our equine and human athletes, during and after their careers, and discuss how our sport connects with popular culture."
Park Joo Sun, deputy speaker of the national assembly of South Korea, and Kim Hyun Soon, vice minister of Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, offered welcoming remarks to the assembled delegates, which hailed from more than 40 jurisdictions.
The evening concluded with a gala dinner and a celebration of Korean culture through music and dance.