2022/23 Hong Kong racing season ends with historical records reinforcing its world-class status

16/07/2023 22:54

An extraordinary 2022/23 Hong Kong horse racing season ended in remarkable fashion on Sunday, 16 July at Sha Tin Racecourse and reinforced Hong Kong’s world-class racing with history-making performances of outstanding horses, trainers and jockeys. 

With only 1,250 horses in training – or around 0.7 percent of the world’s horse population - Hong Kong’s racing once again displayed its world-class quality. Golden Sixty, the first horse in the history of Hong Kong racing to have secured three consecutive Horse of the Year crowns, and fellow G1 winners, Lucky Sweynesse and Romantic Warrior, are entrenched in the top seven of the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. They delivered astounding performances against international rivals in the international spotlight on FWD Champions Day on 30 April 2023 and led a clean sweep of the three Group 1 features of the day -- G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m), G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) and G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m). 

World-class trainer John Size became the first trainer to win 12 Hong Kong trainers’ championships. He has trained 1493 winners in Hong Kong and continues to excel with an uncanny ability to patiently develop young talent into elite top-level performers. Zac Purton clinched his sixth Hong Kong jockeys’ championship with a single-season record of 179 wins. Home-grown jockey Vincent Ho was crowned the Tony Cruz Award for a fourth time with the most wins in a season. They are all shining examples of the rich pool of racing talents in Hong Kong, which serves as a key driver for the continuous development of Hong Kong racing. 

“Hong Kong’s world-class racing is not only built on our state-of-art racing facilities, but more importantly a rich and growing pool of racing talents across all levels from trainers, jockeys, veterinarians to stable assistants and farriers etc. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is committed to attracting world-class talents from overseas and nurturing high-potential home-grown talents. I am delighted to see our racing talents and the horses they train and take care of, deliver remarkable performances this season to local and global fans. They are the future of Hong Kong’s racing,” said the Club’s Chief Executive Officer, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. 

The season also marks a full return of Hong Kong’s racing to normalcy after three years of the COVID pandemic. In the first few months after the season opening in September 2022 when COVID restrictions were still in place in the territory, the Club was able to overcome the challenges with the support of the Hong Kong SAR Government to hold one of the first international sport events in Hong Kong - the internationally renowned 2022 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races in December 2022 with the participation of over 300 overseas racing participants and more than 45,000 people flocking to Sha Tin Racecourse and Happy Valley Racecourse to witness Hong Kong horses win three out of 4 Group 1 races. The success of this event has set a timely and compelling example to the world that Hong Kong is on the international stage again and will continue to excel. Following the uplifting of COVID measures, the Club has responded quickly and effectively to bring local racing fans and mainland visitors back to the racecourses to enjoy not only our spectacular racing but also our remarkable racecourse entertainments with the popular Happy Wednesday brand as a highlight. A notable example is that more than 84,000 people attended the Chinese New Year Raceday, the first feature raceday after the full return of Hong Kong to normalcy to kick off a new good year.

“What makes Hong Kong’s racing continue during the over three long years of COVID pandemic is resilience. What makes us effectively leverage the reopening opportunity and grasp every chance to further develop and strengthen Hong Kong’s racing is our inimitable ‘can-do’ spirit. I am proud of the determination, efforts and support of a massive group of stakeholders who love racing, including our Owners, trainers, jockeys, Club employees and our racing fans. I am confident that with the support of the Hong Kong SAR Government, Hong Kong’s racing will continue to play a vital role as the most popular sport in the city as well as an international brand of Hong Kong,” said Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges. 

In the past season, the Club has been working hard to address the challenges brought by the COVID pandemic. The Club understands that our valuable Owners’ experience in the racecourses during the most stringent period of COVID pandemic was significantly compromised as their attendance and activities during a race meeting were restricted due to the implementation of stringent public health protection measures. In order to stimulate the Owners’ interests in racing, the Club announced the record-high prize money and incentives structure of HK$1.73 billion across the 2023/24 season in May. This included an 8% rise in the domestic racing prize money pool and an increment to the PP bonus scheme. The Club is confident that these attractive incentives and increasing returns on investments will incentivise our Owners to bring more quality horses to Hong Kong to ensure a continuous outstanding performance of Hong Kong horses on the global stage. 

The Club has stringent measures in place to ensure horse welfare. In light of the increasingly hot weather during summer, the Club has proactively introduced Twilight meetings in June and July to safeguard the welfare of horsemen and racehorses. The Club will carry out a review and consider the response of stakeholders to decide future arrangements. 

Another important highlight of the 2022/23 season is that Conghua Racecourse (CRC) has demonstrated its critical role in supporting Hong Kong’s racing as well as the development of the equine industry in the Greater Bay Area. CRC has fully utilised its state-of-the-art facilities to best accommodate, train and prepare horses to return to Sha Tin and Happy Valley racecourse for racing. In the past season, CRC has produced 172 wins by 138 horses. In addition, CRC also realises the Club’s commitment to horse welfare by providing comprehensive and high-standard medical and caring services to horses through its leading-edge equine hospital, rehabilitation facilities and professional veterinarians and rehabilitation specialists.

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “The importance of CRC will continue to grow further with the significant work we are undertaking with Sha Tin’s stable refurbishment to meet the future needs of trainers. CRC will also serve as the centre stage of international-standard racing in the Mainland, starting from the first race meeting in 2026 with the establishment of an iconic Grand Stand enabling visitors from all fronts to enjoy and experience Hong Kong’s world-class racing.” 

The Club closed out the season’s 88th and final meeting, including seven Twilight fixtures, with a total of 835 Hong Kong races and 299 overseas simulcast races and posted turnover of HK$141.1 billion, representing a slight 0.5% increase over the 2021/22 season. The total turnover of the season finale meeting reached HK$2.065 billion, an increase of 1.3% year-on-year. This also marks a double record-high for a season finale and a single racemeeting after the establishment of the HKSAR in 1997. 

Under the current economic situation, it is no surprise that the turnover from Hong Kong customers has experienced a slight decrease of 0.3 percent with an acceleration starting from April. The Club’s strategy to market Hong Kong Racing globally via commingling has been a great success and represents 19.6 percent of the total turnover at present. In this season we have seen an increase of 3.0 percent which has helped to mitigate the impact of the slight turnover decrease from Hong Kong customers. 

The increasing popularity of simulcast of overseas races and the increasing appreciation of the global nature of racing contributed to a 12.5% growth in simulcast turnover to over HK$11.8 billion. While the majority of the simulcast turnover comes from Hong Kong customers which registered an 11.3% growth to HK$10.5 billion, the turnover generated via the World Pool from our overseas customers and partners has grown by 23.2% to HK$1.3 billion.

The Club has established Hong Kong as the global hub for wagering on the world’s best races with even more business potential in the future. The turnover of all simulcast races conducted under the World Pool Brand (including both Hong Kong and overseas customers) have increased from HK$6.2 billion in 2021/22 season to HK$7.3 billion, representing a 18.5% increase. We have continued to increase the number of World Pool races to 24 days this season featuring many of the LONGINES Top 100 Group 1 races. We have also broadened our World Pool partnership to include racing from Australia, Saudi Arabia and Germany for the first time.

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “Under such a challenging economic situation, our overall season racing turnover of HK$141.1 billion is very satisfactory. The strength of the turnover reflects the quality of our products and the on-going support of our customers. However, we will stay vigilant as there will be significant challenges from offshore bookmakers following the reopening of borders and also illegal bookmakers. To ensure our racing will stay competitive and maintain its world-class status, we will re-invest in racecourse assets and enhance customer experience. We will also grasp the unique development opportunity in the GBA under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle. After all, the Club is acting for the betterment of society. All we do is to contribute more to our community with a strategic focus that best meets the needs of Hong Kong people.” 

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