The 38th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) had its official opening during a ceremony in Cape Town on Tuesday, the first time in more than two decades that South Africa has hosted the event.
Mr. Andrew Harding, Asian Racing Federation (ARF) Secretary-General and Executive Director of Racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, delivered the opening address for the three-day Conference (19 February - 21 February) on behalf of the ARF’s Chairman, Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, who, as the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, has remained in Hong Kong to give his principal attention to managing the Club’s response to the novel coronavirus situation.
Mr. Harding said: “Winfried has asked me to pass on his sincere apologies, but he hopes you will understand that the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China means he must be in Hong Kong. In addition to the welfare of the Club’s staff of over 20,000 people, he is needed to direct the Club’s efforts to support the Hong Kong community in this extremely challenging period.
“These challenges reach from securing sufficient masks for our staff and hospitals in an environment of a global supply shortage, ongoing discussions with Government to agree which mitigating measures the Club has to introduce to prevent the spread of the virus - and which enables us to continue racing - while working on Charity and Community Programmes via the Jockey Club’s Emergency Relief Funds, providing NGOs with resources to address the needs of the homebound elderly, the disabled and of ethnic minorities.
“I know for a fact that this was a very difficult decision for Winfried, but he felt that he must be with the Club’s staff and the Hong Kong community at this testing time.”
Mr. Harding focused on the ARC’s theme of “Unlocking Potential” in his remarks to dignitaries, guests and delegates, including Chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) Mr. Louis Romanet, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management in Cape Town, Alderman James Vos, and outgoing Chairman of the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa, Mr. Ken Truter. In particular, he recognised South Africa’s progress since it last welcomed the Asian Racing Federation to Cape Town.
“The last time South Africa hosted the ARC was 1997, just three years after the end of apartheid,” he said. “As we gather together here today, some 23 years later, I think we are all very mindful - and deeply respectful of - the great strides South Africa has made. This includes its racing, where South African trainers and jockeys are already highly successful exports. This is soon to be followed, I don’t doubt, by South African horses competing and winning on the world stage,” he said.
“This is what makes the theme of this conference - Unlocking Potential - so resonant. For as South Africa reminds us, our sport has huge potential if only we can confront the challenges and grasp the opportunities before us.”
Mr. Harding noted that many of racing’s challenges – such as relevance, technological advances, illegal betting, climate change and animal welfare – are the same from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and he proposed that they require a concerted, unified global response across the board.
“Given the global reach of these issues, it is clear that as an industry we need to work together like never before,” he said. “Organisations such as the ARF and the IFHA will play an increasingly important role. Individual jurisdictions acting alone will take us only so far.
“As Winfried has said, the most important, the most vital, of these challenges and opportunities are global – and they demand a global solution. So, we must work together to build the quality of our racing and wagering, to harmonise our rules and regulations, and to confront the existential threats of illegal gambling and climate change.”
Mr. Harding will chair the first of the conference’s 11 sessions, which are spread across the three days. That Wednesday morning session, titled Wagering And Digitalisation, will feature video presentations from Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges and Mr. Richard Cheung, the Club’s Executive Director, Customer And International Business Development, while Mr. George Irvine, the Club’s Commingling Development Director, will also address delegates in Cape Town.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club will also be represented in later sessions by Mr. Douglas Robinson, Senior Due Diligence and Research Manager and Deputy Chairman of the ARF's Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce, and Mr. Thomas Chignell, Executive Manager, Racing Integrity and Betting Analysis, with Mr. Harding playing a prominent role across all three days.
The ARC was first held in Tokyo in 1960 and is now the largest horseracing industry conference in the world.