Hong Kong delivers another top show
Attendance down amid concerns of the pro-democracy protests but turnover a record for the HKIR meeting
Despite the uncertainty and safety concerns with the pro-democracy protests, The Hong Kong Jockey Club concluded yet another exciting edition of its annual Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday.
What's more, the attendance might have been lower than normal, but the turnover was a record for the meeting - at HK$1.71 billion (S$297 million).
The marquee raceday saw Japan winning three of the four International Group 1 races: the HK$20 million Hong Kong Vase over 2,400m with Glory Vase, the HK$25 million Hong Kong Mile over 1,600m with Admire Mars and the HK$28 million Hong Kong Cup over 2,000m with Win Bright.
Hong Kong, which swept all four races last year, took the HK$20 million Hong Kong Sprint over 1,200m with Beat The Clock.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club's chief executive officer, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said the outcome of Sunday's races showed that it was a fantastic international race meeting.
"The quality and the excitement we have seen shows what Hong Kong racing is all about. It's about world-class sport and that is what makes us a unique value proposition.
"We are more than delighted about the turnover. We could not have expected turnover like we had today.
"The interesting part is that the local turnover, even though we had to close down some of our off-course betting branches, was above last year at HK$1.376 billion."
He attributed the major growth to commingling turnover.
" This shows that our strategy of globalistion, of making Hong Kong racing - with our integrity, with all the excitement, with the deep liquidity in our pool - available to the world, is working," he said.
"The commingling turnover was HK$334 million, which is up by nearly 30 per cent from HK$258 million last year.
However, he noted that it was not all about the turnover.
"It was about the sport and also how it showed the resilience of Hong Kong racing, and the excellence of the Hong Kong Jockey Club," he said.
Sunday's event went ahead at a difficult time for Hong Kong, with a major protest taking place on Hong Kong Island at the same time as the races.
Said Engelbrecht-Bresges: "We deliberately were not pushing our attendance. We wanted to be absolutely sure that everybody who came to the races would be able to go home safely because we knew there was a big demonstration on the island and we didn't want to take a risk. We had a lot of in-depth planning for this meeting.
"For us to be able to stage this international event, when all other major sporting events here have been cancelled, we have demonstrated that we manage what we do extremely professionally, with a real risk assessment."
He thanked the club's staff, the media and particularly the international horsemen who demonstrated their faith in The Hong Kong Jockey Club.
"Thanks, firstly, to our outstanding people here in Hong Kong and, second of all, the international connections who have put their trust in us and have brought some of the best horses in the world to compete and put on a race meeting of real excellence," he said.