01 October 2012

Brits must brace for the Asian racing century

QEII heads in the wrong direction.
In Britain, the turf is the second most popular spectator sport after football, and is enjoying a popular revival due to the exploits of wonder horse Frankel. However that august journal of record, The Economist, says beneath the silver lining lay threatening clouds: prize money has "plummeted" and the racing business is fast shifting to the Eastern hemisphere. The article charts the challenge to Britain from Asia, from Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and especially China, "where racing seems to be blossoming into a high-society pursuit":
"The wealthy Chinese are “turning much more attention to racing,” and regard it as an untapped industry, says Felix Wang, author of the China Horse Racing Bible. Though the sport was legalised only in 2008, already five racetrack permits have been awarded. The most ambitious is Tianjin’s Equine Culture City, which at an estimated cost of $2 billion will have two racetracks and be home to 3,000 horses. Racing is due to start in 2014, the Year of the Horse."
Coolmore announced in April a €40m deal to dispatch 100 broodmares and several stallions to Tianjin. In fact Ireland is seeking first-mover advantage in China, but a more skeptical view from a Shanghai expat casts a shadow over the dash for cash.

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