Speaking to more than 70 members of the international media on Thursday, Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chief Executive Officer of the HKJC introduced the new Conghua Training Centre (CTC) near Guangzhou. In his remarks he explained how Hong Kong’s leading position in global racing industry will be sustained and enhanced following the opening of CTC in August 2018.
Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges remarked that the Club’s vision to bring Hong Kong racing to a world-class standard began in 1998, and today Hong Kong is already widely recognized as one of the world’s leading racing jurisdictions and centre of excellence in horse racing.
“By the end of 2016, a record 26 Hong Kong-trained horses were in the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, representing 8% of the global total, while all 11 of the Club’s Group 1 races were in the World’s Top 100 Group 1 Races.” said Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges, “but to ensure our future growth, we identified a need for more modern training facilities.”
“We have to address the asset health and capacity issues in Sha Tin in relation to tracks and training options, including grass and uphill gallops. This includes state-of-the-art stables and an environment which can accommodate not only geldings, but horses with breeding potential to justify the ever-increasing investment of our Owners to secure world-class horses. We also need dedicated spelling and rehabilitation facilities. Further, the current intense environment in Sha Tin is not ideal to develop younger horses.”
“Given the Club’s support of the Asian Games in 2010 in Guangzhou, we had a unique opportunity to acquire a major piece of land in Conghua where we had designed and built the equestrian venue. The Conghua Training Centre offers the Club a superb complement to Sha Tin which remains the heart and is the core centre of our operations. We have made a CAPEX investment of HK$3.7 billion for a truly state-of-the-art training Centre in Conghua, and we have also committed an additional HK$1.5 billion to start a multi-year complete renovation programme in Sha Tin from 2018/19, after Conghua is in operation.” said Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges.
“Being probably the most demanding and significant project the Club has ever undertaken, the Conghua Training Centre is going to be one of the most significant milestones in the history of Hong Kong racing when it opens in August 2018,” said Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges . “This project is fully endorsed, and is only possible, due to the support of the Hong Kong and Mainland governments. We have overcome many challenges, from establishing the first Equine Disease-free Zone in China with the support of the OIE, the Hong Kong and Mainland governments, in extending the health status of Hong Kong into Conghua. We have obtained special permission for seamless cross-border transportation of horses, for our veterinarians to practice in China, to import horse feed and medication and to establish the first comprehensive equine clinic in the Chinese Mainland.”
“CTC is also a permanent base for a significant number of dedicated Mainland government officials from Guangdong CIQ, Bureau of Agriculture of Guangzhou Municipality, Bureau of Environmental Protection of Guangzhou Municipality and Conghua Customs so as to ensure a smooth running of a dual-site operations model in CTC on the Mainland and the Sha Tin centre in Hong Kong”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges added that “CTC has a great potential to enhance Conghua and Guangzhou’s branding by hosting showcase racing carnivals to demonstrate our world-class racing and its operations, ranging from world-class horses and jockeys to expertise in horse care. We plan to have our first showcase racing carnival in 2019, very similar to what the NBA does to showcase their top basketball teams in the Chinese Mainland.”
“However, our development in Conghua is not for introducing racing with betting, especially as it is against the law in the Chinese Mainland. We firmly believe we can strengthen the positioning of Conghua as a tourist destination, giving Conghua a unique branding similar to Baden-Baden with hot springs and racing, and create significant value for the region by attracting high-value tourists.”
In closing, Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges recapped that as the first world-class equine facility in the Chinese Mainland, CTC will complement Sha Tin to play a critical role in the future development of Hong Kong’s horse racing.
An aerial image of the Conghua Training Centre site from late November, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club