The 38th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) closed in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday with the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) Secretary General Mr. Andrew Harding celebrating the strides taken to “unlock racing’s potential” in the spirit of the conference theme.
Mr. Harding spoke on behalf of the ARF’s Chairman, Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges when he applauded the “exceptional” organisation and commitment of the conference host, the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa (NHRA), under the leadership of outgoing chair Mr. Ken Truter. His successor as NHRA chair, Mrs. Susan Rowett, passed the ARC flag to Australia, with Racing Victoria to host the next ARC in Melbourne in February 2022.
“The topics under consideration this week have covered virtually all aspects of our industry, and I think it is fair to say that, across the board, the presentations and the panel discussions have been relevant, incisive and thought-provoking,” Mr. Harding, Executive Director of Racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the ARF Secretary-General, said in his closing remarks.
“Standing here tonight I believe we have achieved a better understanding of not only our challenges but also the opportunities that exist to unlock racing’s potential,” he continued. “Throughout this 38th ARC there has been one constant refrain - just as the challenges we face are global in nature, so too does our future success depend on the extent we are willing to collaborate and act globally.”
Almost 500 delegates participated in 11 plenary sessions over the three days of the ARC; a number of bureau meetings were also held throughout the week, including the International Stewards’ Conference, the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses session, and the ARF General Assembly. The IFHA Executive Committee will meet on Saturday, 22 February.
During the ARF General Assembly meeting on Tuesday (18 February), Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, was re-elected as ARF Chairman for the fifth time. He first took the chair for a two-year period from 2007, was again elected as head of the ARF in 2014 and has remained at the helm ever since.
Mr. Harding told the attendees that he had been in close contact with Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges throughout the ARC, with the ARF Chairman remaining in Hong Kong to manage the Club’s response to the novel coronavirus situation. Mr. Harding said that Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges had been able to monitor the ARC by watching live streams and reading presentation material.
Taking stock of the week’s proceedings, Mr. Harding identified five key takeaways, all linked to the conference theme of ‘Unlocking Potential’.
“Firstly, international commingling will be key for the future development of racing as a sport. Through this vehicle, we have the chance to really harvest the potential of our international racing,” he said, advocating for a new protocol to expand the capabilities of commingling and to allow operators greater monitoring controls.
“Second, 5G is a game changer and presents wagering and racing with a plethora of opportunities to both widen our fan base and unlock the full potential of the value propositions that racing can offer sponsors.”
He continued: “In a world in which confidence in public institutions is diminishing, public confidence in the integrity and fairness of sport is becoming increasingly valuable. Racing has traditionally had the best systems for policing integrity and ensuring a level playing field but other sports are also gaining these capabilities and racing must continue to enhance.”
Mr. Harding pointed out that not only is the integrity of the sport important but the welfare of its participants is paramount: “Horse welfare and well-developed aftercare initiatives are the cornerstones of a healthy, modern racing industry. Best practices in horse welfare are absolutely necessary for the sustainability of our industry. The Asian Racing Federation is committed to promoting the further strengthening of the industry’s horse welfare programmes and aftercare initiatives.”
Finally, Mr. Harding examined the work of the ARF’s Anti-Illegal Betting Task Force: “Their work has enabled us to articulate for both governments and law enforcement agencies the scale and complexity of the illegal markets, their connection to organised crime and the impact to integrity and the reputation of the sport. The ARF is committed to achieving a multi-agency coalition to fight this scourge.”
In closing the conference, Mr. Harding said: “The resources that have been committed and the months of hard work are commendable and we are all greatly indebted to the leadership of Mr. Ken Truter, the efforts of the Organising Committee and the support of key stakeholders, Phumelela, Gold Circle, Kenilworth Racing and the Racing Association. A special mention must be made of Mr. Dean Sawarjith (Executive, International Operations, Phumelela Gaming) - the importance of his commitment and drive cannot be overstated. On behalf of the ARF Executive Council and the ARF Members, thank you so much for your tireless efforts and tremendous organisation of this 38th Asian Racing Conference.”
Mrs. Rowett, on behalf of the NHRA, said: “Thank you to the ARF secretariat panel, headed by Andrew Harding, James Ogilvy (Executive Manager, Racing Authority (External), the Hong Kong Jockey Club and their team who worked so closely with the local organising committee on the Conference. Thank you as well to Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges for the enormous commitment and leadership to make the conference work, including sending his team over two weeks early to ensure the conference could go ahead. Even without him here in person, he was certainly here in spirit.”