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The Racing Onion

It's enough to make you cry


Enough to make you cry !

There have been a lot of bad news stories, robust discussion and constructive suggestions regarding the Thoroughbred & Racing landscape of late through this medium that’s been enough to make any passionate racing person cry! What it has confirmed to me, is that our industry is like an onion and it has a lot of layers, writes Thoroughmedia’s Simon Burgess.

All that aside, it’s been extremely encouraging to hear all of the different opinions and suggestions from a broad cross section of demographics within the industry. The bottom line remains though, there’s a lot of work to be done, but there’s a passion there that suggests there’s some light at the end of the tunnel?

HKJC Sprint won by Karis Teetan

Karis Teetan wins the Jockeys’ Sprint

I was in Hong Kong last weekend and attended the pre-season launch for the new racing season at Sha Tin. There was no racing, no wagering just a few trials, a Jockey’s sprint race (coincidentally won by Karis Teetan), jumping castles and pony rides and oh….about twenty thousand people! Yes twenty thousand people at a non racing race day! Why, because that’s how they roll in Hong Kong. Yes they are without doubt a huge nation of Punters, but they absolutely love their racing, their trainers & jockeys and their horses that they hold in hero status. So what continually keeps them coming back to the races and from an even more inquisitive perspective, to a non race day season launch?

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is undoubtedly the bench mark of racing at every level and beyond comparison to any other racing jurisdiction in the world with perhaps Japan the only exception. One of the major reasons for this is that they understand their product and their customers because of meticulous research and consultation. They have clear plans and strategies, and they execute those plans with military precision.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges

CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges committed to “world class racing”

Their vision is to “committing to a sustainable growth of world class racing” and with a 35% increase in racing turnover equating to just under HK$102 billion in the last season, it’s safe to say that things are going ok! But as the hunter has become the hunted with every other racing country using Hong Kong as a benchmark but they’re certainly not sitting back and waiting for everyone else to catch up. So the question beckons, why are they so good?

Well yes they have got a gambling mad audience, but they still have healthy competition for the punting dollar and they still attract crowds and owners. There’s currently a seven year waiting list just to own a horse! Now I’m not saying we’re comparing apples with apples here, but there are a lot of similarities and I think we can learn a lot from Hong Kong even if we just cherry picked a few of their ideas.

Let’s take a minute to look at why they are such a well oiled machine. Firstly, they have a “Master Plan” that is primarily centered around providing a superior customer experience & service and keeping on the cutting edge of technology. Aside from that they’re extremely focused on delivering what they like to call “Global Excellence” a combination of major events, racing & wagering experiences, integrity, top class horses, trainers & jockeys, prize money and world’s best facilities and this season they’ll take another quantum step in their master plan by ticking off a lot of those boxes.

2014 Hong Kong Champions Mile

SA bloodstock is top quality

Obviously like a lot of our fellow racing countries suffering from Hong Kong envy, we can’t do everything, but we could certainly adopt some “best practice” ideas particularly with their customer centricity and digital connectivity that would be of great benefit. On a side note, there was one very interesting point I noted in their two hour presentation to the media that South Africa can certainly tap into. They have a great cause for concern that with the increasing competition for their Owners to buy quality horses from around the world (HK has no breeding industry), it is now becoming very difficult due to the unfavorable exchange rates.


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11 comments on “The Racing Onion

  1. Attie de Villiers says:

    One thing is for certain, the media in RSA is not used correctly to promote the sport, its heroes and economic abilities

  2. Leon Smuts says:

    The HKJC has never lost its focus which is to constantly improve the core racing product and has achieved tremendous success with their racing because of this.

    Indeed a great example of what can be accomplished even though it is a very hard act to follow.

    Whatever advantages they might have, and there are a few, it is clear that they concentrate on looking after their customers and will put in every effort to improve the racing and on course experience.

    The one thing that their model highlights is that there is hope for racing if you are committed to the product and willing to go the extra mile in your efforts.

  3. Steve Reid says:

    There is the very small matter of the tote being a non-profit organisation in HK and the even smaller matter of bookmakers being illegal there. Perusing the amounts wagered on Interbet yesterday, they comfortably exceed the tote numbers. Not hard to work out what the differences are

    1. Leon Smuts says:

      Sorry Steve

      Exactly where do you stand on competition?

      In another posting you say that competition is good for the market and that TBA should face up to the reality of CTS establishing themselves as an alternative new player.

      Above you seem to suggest that bookmakers/competition is not a good thing.

      Devils advocate?, take a stance, I would love to know your actual view on these matters.

  4. Donna says:

    South African racing needs to be seen to have integrity throughout. There are too many blind spots, for instance first timers running in races where betting is allowed. Secondly, service delivery at all levels, thirdly, no context – understanding the game (handicapping), and its heroes.

  5. Steve Reid says:

    Leon I am stating what the situation is in Hong Kong at present to make the point that profits are spread out to charities and not shareholders. Here as we all know it is a totally different kettle of fish. Why should the South African operators be without competition? I have no problem with bookmakers but do believe that they need to contribute more than they are at the moment.

    Competition is a great thing. Trust that clears any misconceptions.

  6. Steve Reid says:

    Just to clarify the bookmakers should contribute more, this contribution should not be to the Operators, this additional contribution should be ring fenced and used for the betterment of racing not improved share dividends.

    Contributions to the Horse Care Unit, monies to enable meaningful research into improving the export protocol, upliftment in the skills and working conditions of grooms, contributions to trainers and jockeys benevolent funds are but just a few that come off the top of my head.

  7. Leon Smuts says:

    With you Steve

    Everyone should contribute more to racing and look specifically for racing solutions if we are to succeed.

  8. lleon1234 says:

    Since the TAB averages 22.5% take out and the bookmakers nationally are running at say 11-12% do you think they should bet more in their favour to make more money to fund racing(bucket shops in Hong Kong also)or how do you propose it should be structured for the benefit of racing.Some provinces get better returns than others.Due to cash vs credit hold.Your proposal will make very good reading.
    Proposals from Phumelela to bookmakers include the following.
    1.Increase punters tax by 3% and give us the money.
    2.Sell us your licences and buy Phumelela shares and soon the shares will be R100 per share
    3.Increase your betting takeout from say 116 % to 135% per race and then the playing fields will be level
    4.Ban the stretch, be like the tote everyone must get the price shown al’a Betting World.
    i suggest we are now at a point where bookmakers should be paying GGR tax from their pocket
    and then let the market find its feet.Its time racing was given a foot up as sport is swallowing racing because of the tax issue.

  9. Simon Burgess says:

    HK kicks off their new season at Sha Tin with a whopping HK1.14billion turnover up 10% from L/Y staggering 74,000 in attendance! #benchmark

    1. Editor says:

      Amazing figures!

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