The 35th Asian Racing Conference was marked last night in Hong Kong with a dazzling opening ceremony and gala dinner.
The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Leung Chun-ying, struck a ceremonial gong to signal the start of the conference at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.
High-level delegates from around the horse world are attending, including FEI Secretary-General Ingmar de Vos and International Federation of Horseracing Authorities Chairman Louis Romanet. They joined a record number of almost 800 delegates, as well as media and invited guests, gathered from around the globe.
The regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region hung proudly alongside those of the Asian Racing Federation’s member nations and regions as Hong Kong Jockey Club Chairman T Brian Stevenson welcomed delegates. He spoke of Hong Kong’s “amazing vibrancy and blend of cultures” as he addressed those present ahead of what is the world’s largest and most significant horseracing industry conference.
The Hong Kong community was well-represented during the evening as those assembled enjoyed harmonies from a local children’s community choir, an energetic, flag-waving representation from Shaolin Kung Fu and a performance by musicians from the HKJC Scholarship Scheme.
It is the third time Hong Kong has hosted the conference, but the first since 1991. Stevenson noted that the 21 Asian Racing Federation (ARF) members run more than 55,000 races a year, almost 40% of the total worldwide, and generating $US75 billion of turnover in 2012.
ARF Chairman Dr Koji Sato said it was an exciting time for racing. “We do face some challenges, but there is also a great deal that we can be optimistic about. By working together we are making great progress. 2014 is also the Year of the Horse, and that must be a good omen for our discussions this week.”
The three-day conference at the Convention and Exhibition Centre will consist of 15 seminars, featuring topics such as the future landscape for wagering, the use of cutting edge technology in sports broadcasting, the issue of drug control, the community impact of racecourses, and the international movement of elite horses.
• The 5th International Stewards’ Conference was conducted yesterday at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong, in conjunction with the conference. Chaired by Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Stipendiary Steward Kim Kelly, the conference was attended by 71 delegates representing 28 racing jurisdictions.
Topics under discussion included protest and objection rules, and penalties that should be applied to serious offences, including the use of anabolic steroids and issues relating to animal welfare. The conference heard a report from Johan Petzer, Chairman of Stewards at Thoroughbred Racing South Australia, concerning the introduction in Australia of mandatory minimum penalties relating to offences involving prohibited substances and animal welfare.
Other subjects included the provision of information by Stewards to the public through mainstream media and the increasing use of social media platforms; a study currently being conducted in Hong Kong regarding the health, fitness and welfare of jockeys; rules applying in certain jurisdictions regulating or prohibiting medication/treatment being administered to horses on or leading up to the day they are to race; and the benefits of interaction between Stewards and Security and Integrity departments.