Charismatic racing owner and airline boss V.J. Mallya called for greater integration and harmony and less “disconnection” among industry stakeholders at the 31st Asian Racing Conference in Dubai Jan. 25.
Taking up the conference’s “Racing without Borders” theme, Mallya, the chairman and managing director of Kingfisher Airlines and chairman of United Breweries Group, said more initiative is required to remove transportation barriers so that equine competitiveness and racing quality can increase.
Mallya, an owner, sponsor and breeder, told delegates during a business session on racehorse ownership that the retention of owners was more important than acquisitions.
“The more we retain, the more the word will spread and people will become interested in racing,” he said.
With 500 million people in booming India now under 20 years old, Mallya urged the subcontinent’s industry to capitalize on the potential goldmine of new business.
“There are a lot of youngsters finding well-paid jobs and living in the fast track,” he said.
Mike Kenny, chief executive officer of Sydney Turf Club, explored the idea of new approaches to prize-money to encourage greater horse ownership.
“Horse racing must be the only professional sport that you don’t pay the participants for competing,” he said.
“It’s the owner who pays all the bills but they don’t see the returns unless they’re successful. The main point of prize-money is that you reward the fastest horse but you’ve got to look after the place getters.”
Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association in the U.S., urged owners to be more organized and active.
Mick Goss, chairman of the South African Equine Council, reported an upturn in disposable income from middle to upper-middle income Africans but called for a “level playing field” with prize-money to avoid integrity issues.