China, Singapore ink horse-racing deal

Updated: 2014-03-12 07:23

By Wang Kaihao in Singapore (China Daily)

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The Chinese mainland will take its first step toward hosting a thoroughbred race overseas via closer cooperation with Singapore, thanks to an ambitious joint venture.

Tianjin-based China Horse Club signed a memorandum of understanding on March 4 with the Singapore Turf Club, the island republic's only horse-racing club, to introduce the China Equine Culture Festival to Singapore in the second half of this year.

The festival will also promote Chinese culture and traditions through art, dance, music and fashion and culminate in a world-class thoroughbred race day, which will be held at the Singapore club's racecourse. The organizer claims this is the first thoroughbred race from the Chinese mainland ever held overseas.

The first China Equine Cultural Festival was held in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. The man behind that festival, Teo Ah Khing, a Malaysian architect who is also the chairman of the China Horse Club, claims that it has the highest bonus of any thoroughbred race on the Chinese mainland. The purse of a single race can be as high as 1 million yuan ($163,600).

"More investment and business opportunities will follow after the two sides get closer," says Teo. "Horse racing represents a new fashionable lifestyle for high-end consumers in China.

"China has thousands of years of horse breeding history, but it hasn't developed a mature modern thoroughbred industry. The more that China is involved in internationally influential races, the more this will create relevant jobs or business for the country, and this huge market will also give the Singaporean side great opportunities."

Statistics from the Singapore Tourism Board in February, indicated that about 15.5 million tourists from the Chinese mainland visited Singapore in 2013, spending 2.38 billion Singaporean dollars ($1.89 billion) in the first three quarters of that year, making China the No 1 overseas consumer in Singapore, surpassing Indonesia.

According to Soong Tze Ming, senior vice-president of the Singapore Turf Club, the international equine cooperation will reinforce his organization as a host of elite racing and provide Singapore with another sophisticated cultural and sporting event other than Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.

Both Teo and Soong agreed that it is a shame that although Singapore began thoroughbred racing as early as 1842, when the Singapore Turf Club was founded, the country has lagged behind Hong Kong as a world-class thoroughbred racing center. The Chinese mainland's growing thoroughbred industry should help Singapore gain a higher position and wider influence in world racing circles.

Teo reveals that China Horse Club and Beijing municipal sports bureau will also launch an official cooperation in May related to thoroughbred breeding, racing, and overseas promotion. China Equine Cultural Festival will also expand to several Chinese cities other than Hohhot in 2014. Racing in the coastal city of Yantai, Shandong province, has been scheduled.

There is an island in Yantai called Yangmadao (which means island of horse raising). Local legends show its horse-raising history can be traced back to the time of China's first emperor of Qinshihuang (259-210 BC) but Teo says he found few old equine traditions are left.

"China never lacks horse-related stories, and it will soon have many top-tier racecourses also as the economy booms and the social elites demand it," Teo says.

However, a more difficult task is to establish an equestrian culture and complete software to maintain sustainable development.

"China can learn from Singapore's experience in marketing and management, as the city state is a melting pot of East and West. The year 2014 is the Year of the Horse for both countries. No other time is better to do this job," Teo says.

 China, Singapore ink horse-racing deal

A thoroughbred from China Horse Club participates in a race in Singapore on March 2. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 03/12/2014 page20)