The agenda of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul took a twist away from the routine today with a session focused on the sport and its connection with popular culture, chaired by Mr Stephen Romei, literary editor of The Australian newspaper, occasional racing commentator and committed horse racing fan. 

Mr Romei, a regular guest on Australian radio's horse racing programme Hoof on the Till, opened the discussion to examine how racing connects with popular culture in today’s world.

“While several serious issues like integrity have been discussed this week and rightly so, it is important to remember that the horse, and horse racing, have been part of our culture for a very long time and it is incumbent on racing administrators to work to ensure it stays that way,” he said. 

Mr Romei detailed many of the great horses who have inspired writers and film makers over the years - speaking of Secretariat, Sea Biscuit, Phar Lap, Black Caviar and Winx. “These horses ensure that racing and popular culture go hand in hand and have inspired generations. And, even now, with Black Caviar and Winx having their own Twitter accounts the connection remains real to contemporary popular culture,” he said. 

Mr Chris McGrath, racing correspondent from Thoroughbred Daily News and three time recipient of the United Kingdom’s Racing Writer of the Year Award, explored how the written word has captured the social diversity of the turf. He said the enormous spectrum of characters who have recurred throughout racing’s history was arguably the defining strength of the sport. 

“Recently, on the one day, I interviewed two breeders. The first was the Duke Of Roxburghe, his mother a wealthy American industrialist, on the Scottish borders and the second was with a self-made man named David Armstrong in an industrial estate outside Manchester. It provided a typical snapshot of the sheer breadth of humanity who convene on a racetrack,” he said. 

Mr McGrath spoke of how he decided to write a social history of the thoroughbred, “Mr Darley’s Arabian,” which simultaneously became a social history of Britain over the last 300 years as it followed the Darley Arabian sire-line. He highlighted numerous examples of the colour and diversity he turned up in his research. 

“From the Darley Arabian to Frankel, each stallion in the sequence provided a portrait of racing and life. Two of the 25 stallions in the sire line were, in fact, bred by Prime Ministers,” Mr McGrath said. 

He explored the literature of the turf, nearly every worthwhile syllable of which he read during the course of his research for his book and pointed to its engagement with the masses through especially great turf writers including Bill Nack, author of an acclaimed 1975 book on Secretariat, and George Lambton who also happened to train Phalaris, the great Darley Arabian line stallion. 

Mr Jongduk Kim, Senior Manager, Broadcast Center (KRBC) for the Korea Racing Authority, looked at how rediscovering horse culture in Korea could be used to generate interest in contemporary horse racing. 

“Developing and highlighting the horse culture of Korea could be the solution to revitalising the horse racing industry in Korea as a whole,” he said after presenting a fascinating video which focused on that history. 

“The Korea Racing Broadcasting Channel is focused on regenerating the Korean horse culture which we believe can make people take pride in their enjoyment of horse racing. Re-establishing that link with our great horse history can bring people closer to racing. 

“That is part of our expanding television coverage which along with a focus on attracting new owners and developing new technologies underpins our strategy to ensure the industry’s viability and growth,” Mr Kim said. 

The KRBC is finding traditional and unique cases to revive the forgotten Korean horse culture from years past. Mr Kim outlined four traditional Korean horse stories and explored connections that the KRBC had found between Korea’s traditional horse culture and the modern horse racing industry. 

Mr Henry Birtles, prolific poet and managing director of HBA Media, which specialises in the promotion of horse racing and is the leading independent distributor of racing media rights globally, bought a poem to the table - "Kam Sa Ham Ni Da” which is “thank you” in Korean.

The piece, shown below, centred on the merits of a collaborative approach and the benefits of convocations such as the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul.  

Kam sa ham ni da (Thank you)

In years long gone, in different times when progress wore a selfish cloak 
When people firmly gave no ground and unity was thought a joke
A wisdom rose amongst the ranks of visionaries who’ve earned our thanks; 
Who saw beyond their border line, beyond their remit, national gain
Who chose a way to re-define those boundaries coloured by disdain
A modernising outlook born where close collaboration drew
Collective thought, exchange, goodwill and betterment; a worldly view
That Racing now could celebrate; alliance in the corporate space
Where bright ideas and brainstorming collided for a better place
Where all the nuts and bolts discussed that underpin its glorious form
Compliance, law, integrity, such things that make the public yawn 
Essentials for our sport to shine, debated hard below the line
But more than this…encouragement; support, promotion, nourishment

 

And all quite simply that’s required to make our product more desired
For we are here to find a way, it’s what we strive for every day

To do what we know must be right, to keep that burning torch alight
To make the Sport of Kings once more, a King of Sport just as before
And we are blessed with so much scope and so much more than dreams & hope
The stories, oh the stories and the grace, the power, the glories
The majesty, the passion; though it’s not for some…the fashion
With guile, ideas, the time is now; think digital, think why and how
And with a Winx and with a smile, think on our feet; think Gangnam Style
Let’s give our bodies, give our whole, give our minds, our heart and Seoul
To you, the noble ARF upon whose shoulders duty rests 
Assembled here in South Korea, and elsewhere every other year
From conference guests both near and far, a gracious Kam sa ham ni da


The sixth plenary session of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul tackled the very ever-pressing issue of integrity, both in sport in general and more specifically in racing. 

Mr Kim Nag Soon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Korea Racing Authority, set the tone for the session with his opening remarks: “In our industry, nothing is more important than integrity. If we are to earn and retain the trust of the public, then our sport must not only be clean and fair, but also must be seen to be clean and fair. It is what sets us apart from illegal gambling operators. Going forward we need to strengthen education of all participants and work across borders with partners, sharing information and intelligence to combat our common foe and uphold the trust in our racing product.” 

Sport around the world has been accompanied by scandal. Allegations of match fixing, bribery of officials, illegal gambling, doping and money laundering have tarnished sport for decades, eroding the public’s trust. Based on match fixing case studies from around the world, Professor Jack Anderson, Director of Sports Law Studies at the University of Melbourne offered his view on recent and current integrity issues in the world of sport. 

“We may think that the threat is external, but the threat is from within,” said Prof Anderson. “Insider information is the key integrity threat. It can manipulate betting markets, putting the integrity of the sport, and of the brand, at stake. Educating jockeys or players is key. There is a demand for information – so how does one stop the supply? You cut off that supply by educating the jockeys or the players.” 

Prof Anderson went on to explain that there is no such thing as a victimless crime when it comes to corruption. “Corruption and lack of integrity has a price tag, it costs the sport.  A fix in a race or at the bookies affects every consumer on a micro level, and on a macro level it leads to transnational economic crime. For criminal syndicates this is a beautiful outcome.”  

Dealing with match fixing is resource intensive, hence more and more sports bodies are relying on commercial operators to flag unusual betting patterns. According to Prof Anderson, that raises several legal questions, such as what constitutes an irregular pattern, what is the correct ban, and how do you make the punishment proportionate to the crime given courts these days reject life bans? 

In conclusion, Prof Anderson added, “nothing corrodes quicker than the whiff of corruption and therefore integrity needs to be your number one priority.” 

With global racing integrity issues as the main theme of his presentation, the Honourable Justice Jack Forrest of the Supreme Court of Victoria (Australia) reminded delegates of the ease with which a scandal impacts the sport.  

“The prosperity of international racing relies on its gambling revenue, and if it is not a level playing field, betting and reputational damage affects all stakeholders. Stewards need to operate effectively and be seen to be doing so,” said Justice Forrest. 

He specifically addressed the ongoing doping problems in Australian racing. 

“After the last four years, the public can be forgiven for thinking that cheating and doping is rife in Australian racing. First we had the cobalt scandal and more recently the Aquanita scandal, where ‘top ups’ of sodium bicarbonate were given to their horses on racedays over a number of years.” 

Justice Forrest noted that racing has been effective in creating an integrity infrastructure that has, in general, been successful, while other sports have often lacked such setups. However, he cautioned that the implementation of such programmes requires more due diligence than expected. 

“There have always been individuals trying to get an edge in racing. The question is how quickly is it detected and how well is it controlled,” he offered. “The current answer seems to be that perhaps the controls are not sufficient. That raises several other questions. Should integrity be quarantined from the controlling bodies? How tough should drug rules be and how can we improve hearings?”  

Justice Forrest feels that removing integrity issues from the controlling bodies is unlikely to be effective. “I cannot see that such a split would be effective. The costs of doing so are significant and invariably this type of stand-alone organisation is established and regulated by government. On the toughness of drug rules, there are diverse approaches worldwide. Not all positives require a trainer to be disqualified. There are various situations in which the rules need to be adaptable.” 

Justice Forrest concluded by saying that while the cobalt issue has dragged on for three years and is still not finalised, the top-up scandal has been dealt with in a matter of months, with bans and penalties following shortly after the verdict. While this is a step in the right direction, he noted, there are still a host of legal issues to resolve. 

Chairman Kim closed the session with a question to the panel as to what they considered to be the biggest single threat to racing. Justice Forrest added that the quality of technology now used in the monitoring of races, and having expert Stewards, meant that manipulation of race outcomes was no longer the real challenge, while integrity units in other sports have often lacked such expertise. In his view, performance-enhancing drugs was the central integrity issue for acing.  

 


Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, today called on all racing jurisdictions to take advantage of a brightening global economic outlook during today’s Global Wagering Leaders session focusing on current strategies and opportunities at the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul. 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges, who is also vice-chairman of the IFHA (International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities), noted that 75 percent of racing’s income is derived from wagering, a figure which also includes commercialising intellectual property rights on racing products. 

“While we have talked about our branding being less focused on gambling, which is important, we cannot escape the fact that wagering is the lifeblood of the racing industry and we have to capitalise on the positive economic climate. There is a strong link between strong GDP and betting turnover growth,” he said. 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges noted that racing’s share of global gambling turnover had fallen from seven percent in 2010 to six percent in 2016. “The positive is that football betting has given us access to new customers some of whom migrate to also betting on horse racing.”

He then identified five key areas of focus for horse racing as a collective industry: widening the customer base, especially with the embrace of new technologies to connect directly with customers and provide relevant offerings; developing better tote technology to support a better customer experience; advancing the development of a new tote betting protocol for commingling to leverage our strength in exotic bet types; making a concerted effort to create and protect racing’s intellectual property rights both nationally and internationally; and supporting the fight against illegal and unregulated betting. 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges noted that global racing betting volume was flat when the topic was examined at the previous ARC in 2016 and that global GDP growth was stuck in ‘low gear’. However a generally brighter overall economic outlook through 2018 and 2019 provided racing with opportunity for growth. He reported that Hong Kong Jockey Club racing turnover had increased annually 6.5 percent from 2010 to 2017 while football betting growth was double that figure in the same time.  

International simulcasting of horse racing is vital to expanding racing’s fan base according to Mr Masayuki Goto, President and CEO of the Japan Racing Association (JRA). 

JRA figures on betting turnover emphasised the focus on quality, Mr Goto said, as average handle on Japan’s Group 1 races totals US$160 million, about four times the amount on Group 2 and Group 3 races, and about forty times the amount bet on standard non-stakes races. 

Mr Goto highlighted the changing tide in Japan, which permitted wagering on select simulcast opportunities beginning with the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. “The races on which we will consider simulcasting are those in the World’s Top 100 Group 1 Races, or others of particular international interest,” he said, adding that more than 10 million viewers tuned into the live coverage from Paris during that groundbreaking event. Since then, the JRA has carried simulcasts from Dubai, Hong Kong and America. 

“We have developed our own websites with extensive content for Japanese audiences. This has also carried over to racing form guides, which are now presented in newspapers in a style familiar to traditional Japanese races,” added Mr Goto, while showing an example of such from the 2018 Dubai Sheema Classic.

Mr David Attenborough, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Tabcorp, outlined how the firm has repositioned its wagering business to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the evolving fixed odds, digital and sports betting growth at the expense of traditional drivers, retail and parimutuel betting. 

“It is a vibrant wagering market and core to us is our relationship with racing which represents more than 88 percent of our business. As with Hong Kong, sports betting is growing but that is good for racing given the younger audience it brings to the market place.

“That market place is changing and we have to adapt. We’ve found that digital betting growth has offset any downturn in retail sales and similarly, fixed odds betting has offset a decline in parimutuel betting,” Mr Attenborough said. 

He noted Tabcorp was the biggest retailer in Australia and, underlining the inextricable link between racing and wagering, reported that Tabcorp underpinned prize money in Australia with a A$1 billion return to racing each year. “That link is also evident as most people experience racing for the first time in one of our 4300 retail outlets and 2.3 million people bet with the TAB on Melbourne Cup day,” he said. 

Mr Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), outlined British racing’s wagering strategy during this session. He examined the changing betting landscape in Britain and what it means for the future funding of the industry. The key change is a switch from retail to digital betting along with public and government attitudes to gambling in the United Kingdom. 

More than 50 percent of betting on British horse racing is now digital, compared to less than 30 per cent five years ago. “The younger generation is well exposed to digital betting via football,” he said, reaffirming comments made earlier by Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges and Mr Attenborough. 

Mr Dunshea said that the 2018 Gambling Review in Britain had focused on many areas including player protection, problem gambling and money laundering, with a current focus on retail outlets and a push for gaming machines in betting shops to be heavily restricted. Mr Dunshea warned that retail shop closures would likely drive a fall in media rights and levy revenues but the hope is that horse racing betting will become more important for operators. 

He called on the British government to ‘deliver’ on its promises to support the racing industry as the industry has supported government aims for responsible gambling. “Levy reform benefits may potentially be undone in the changing landscape and the grassroots agendas and the sport’s wellbeing threatened. The government has provided assurances that a revised levy will help bridge any gap,” Mr Dunshea said.  

Mr Richard Cheung, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Customer and International Business Development, said Hong Kong strategy centred on sustaining turnover growth via three principal targets: micro-demographic targeting of seniors (60 plus) and females under 45; commingling partnerships and specific information dissemination to overseas customers; and leveraging new technologies to ensure a seamless customer experience.

“We have had a good run, last year turnover grew by 10 percent and this year we expect another five or six percent growth, but we do not think we can sit on our laurels. We are now planting the seeds for another good run,” said Mr. Cheung.  

“Those racing fans who lapsed, who dropped away from the sport due to work and family commitments in middle age, with our tactics, we are seeing that some are returning now that they are retired. Not only that, the lapse rate is dropping,” he said, adding that age-friendly facilities, bigger font types in specific publications, nostalgic marketing campaigns and assistance to promote senior use of digital channels have all been employed.  

Relative to the HKJC’s focus on attracting female racegoers under 45, Mr Cheung suggested the micro-mining of demographics has led to short-term wins.  

“We have seen success with an increase in active betting accounts among young women, with a seven percent growth two years ago and this year a 16 percent growth,” Mr. Cheung said. 

With regard to commingling, a topic first posited at the 31st Asian Racing Conference in Dubai in 2007, Mr. Cheung said the Club’s investment in bespoke content for overseas customers is yielding strong benefits since the endeavor began in 2014.   

“By the end of the 2015/16 season, we were at about US$400 million in turnover. For this season we’re looking at about US$2 billion and that will continue to grow,” he said. 

Emerging technology use, including leveraging artificial intelligence and the chatbot concept may not immediately result in turnover increases, but is required to meet emerging customer segment demands. “We still need to do it. This is how future consumers, especially Generation Z, will function; we have to continue to adapt or it will be very difficult for us to stay relevant with the next generation of customers.”

Mr Simon Bazalgette, Chief Executive Officer of The Jockey Club, outlined the radical change to the British horse racing betting landscape with the creation of Britbet, a partnership of 55 of the country’s 60 racecourses, giving it access to a yearly aggregate of 5 million on-course customers. It will compete with the privately-owned Totepool which had held a parimutuel monopoly.

"While pool betting (parimutuel) accounts for just three percent of Britain's racing turnover we hope to increase that with several initiatives including a cash-out offer on exotic bets, crowd-funded bet types and self-service applications allowing customers to bet on their phones," Mr Bazalgette said. 

 


Professor Patrick Yung, Director of the Hong Kong Centre for Sports Medicine and Sports Sciences, orthopedic surgeon and racehorse owner outlined the application of sports science and medicine amongst jockeys in the concluding plenary session of the first day of the 37th Asian Racing Conference on Tuesday in Seoul.

Addressing the conference under the banner of “The Modern Elite Jockey - A Sports Medicine Perspective,” Prof Yung said the application of sports science and medicine, which began in racing with a focus on treatment of jockey injuries, had room for improvement.

“While the application of sports science has increased over the past decade, there is a lot of room to improve. There is a lack of very good scientific research available and we need consistent documentation and analysis to provide the platform for further improvement,” Prof Yung said.

As Prof Yung focused on injuries and associated health issues pertaining to jockeys, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Ms Amy Chan, Headmistress of the Apprentice Jockeys’ School, and Mr Grant Harris, Chief Executive of the British Racing School, outlined improvements in industry training and education with particular relevance to jockeys.

Prof Yung detailed some remarkable statistics on the probability of jockeys sustaining injury through their careers and the risks associated with concussions and inappropriate weight management - the latter an issue which both Ms Chan and Mr Harris said was an important part of their training programs.

“A US study showed that a jockey is likely to have a fall once in every 500 rides and 50 percent of those will require significant medical attention. On average, a jockey will suffer 2.5 fractures through his or her career while 40 percent of jockeys will suffer from a concussion,” Prof Yung said.

However, he reassured the riding fraternity that despite the inherent risks of race riding, the mortality rate was very low at one in 300,000 days of exposure.

“Obviously the most common cause of injury is a fall so one key, for the industry, is to attempt to minimise the chance of a fall occurring. It is also important to focus on the general health and well-being of the jockeys themselves so factors such as strength, balance, flexibility and reaction time are maximised.

“Essential fitness can assist in the prevention of falls but also in recovery and improving overall performance,” he said.

Prof Yung said his research team fitness-tested Hong Kong’s champion jockey Joao Moreira and prominent Hong Kong footballer Lo Kwan Yee with the jockey rating higher in upper body strength and core muscle strength, with the two evenly matched when it came to lower body muscle power.

“Most jockeys are extremely fit, but inappropriate weight management can be an issue. Suboptimal nutrition and hydration can leave them prone to injury, poor recovery, mood problems including depression and Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies, which may diminish bone quality, especially in the hip region.”

Education on diet and nutrition was outlined as a key part of the training programs conducted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and British Racing School.

“The hope is to better recruit, develop and retain the next generation,” said Ms Chan, a sentiment echoed by Mr Harris who added that one of his School’s key goals was to “recruit, train and retain.”

Both also addressed the need for such training bodies to provide broad spectrum education and career alternatives for those who did not necessarily succeed in becoming jockeys.

“Our program now embraces school-based learning and work-based practice and incorporates physical training, sports and nutrition science, financial management, English language training and music appreciation,” Ms Chan said.

The HKJC’s Apprentice Jockeys School was established in 1972 with the training model based on those in other jurisdictions, particularly in Great Britain, Ms Chan said. “The process now is to develop our next generation of workforce not only in Hong Kong but also in China.” The HKJC will open its landmark Conghua Training Centre this August outside Guangzhou.

Mr Harris detailed Britain’s rider training program and education programs for current and aspiring racing employees - from grooms and work riders to apprentice and conditional jockeys, secretaries and trainers. It also provides administrative and managerial training.

The British Racing School is an independent charity which works with the British Horseracing Authority in training and education with quality-assured qualification, while also providing support services to the racing workforce via the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and Racing Welfare.

“People are this industry’s biggest asset. It’s not a job, it’s vocation for most who are doing highly-skilled and sometimes dangerous work, and doing so for long hours. We are focused on providing the right training and providing our students with life skills,” Mr Harris said.

Mr Harris said the racing industry would likely become a female dominated work place. “We had 70 females and 30 males in our last training intake and the trend is going one way,” he said.

 


The second half of the third plenary session of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul was led by Ms Victoria Carter, Deputy Chair of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, who opened with a frank discussion on how racing can respond to a rapidly changing world, with the emphasis on staying relevant and driving diversity. 

If racing wants to expand its participant base and get more fans – the fastest way is through diversity. More women in racing at all levels, not just on-course, will mean that we have a greater chance of innovation, collaboration and transformation. If you can’t see it, how can you be it or believe that it is possible?” she challenged the audience. “Having more women in racing shows all women that it is possible. It means you do not need to be unique, exceptional or chosen and it becomes more of the norm. Remember half the world is women. 

"For racing to gallop ahead we need women in leadership roles. If you want good decisions, good strategies and good outcomes, you need people who are different from you. Hence diversity, or gender-balance, matters. Change will make our industry stronger. There isn’t an industry today that doesn’t need innovation and new ideas; racing is not alone here,” Ms Carter said. 

So if we want more women to participate in racing we need to find a way to get the other 50% involved." 

Ms Susannah Gill, Director of External Affairs for Arena Racing Company provided an insight into British racing’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. British racing, with its rich heritage, excellent growth and leading position in the production of top quality horses, identified a need to realign with modern society, Ms Gill said. This resulted in the formation of the Diversity in Racing Steering Group led by the British Horseracing Authority and included representation from all stakeholder groups. The Group will shortly publish its Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. 

Society still perceives racing to be a ‘white rich man’s sport,’ yet it relies mostly on people who are not white, rich or men. With racing’s administration populated with white middle-aged men, a current staffing shortage, which will only get worse with Brexit and a gender pay gap, British racing was in trouble. So in short, not only do we need to attract the brightest and the best, but we also need to retain them. Hence we have got to be seen to be open for business,” said Ms Gill. 

Ms Anna Seitz Ciannello, Client Development and Public Relations Manager of Fasig Tipton, briefed delegates on the creation and expansion of female racing syndicates, both in the United States and abroad. 

With a lifetime of experience in the sport having grown-up at Kentucky’s Brookdale Farm, the birthplace of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, Ms Seitz Ciannello spent several years working with seven-time Champion Trainer Todd Pletcher before shifting to sales at Fasig Tipton.  

In my job I realised how exciting it was for people to be involved in owning a racehorse. Hence I put together my first syndicate and bought a filly named I’m Already Sexy. We were not millionaires, we were just a bunch of young people having fun. From there grew the idea of having syndicates for women, where the aim is simply to have fun,” said Ms Seitz Ciannello 

Partnering with Elaine Lawlor from Goffs, Ms Seitz Ciannello proceeded to expand her syndicates internationally, with runners in Australia, Ireland and the USA. Her Australian syndicate It’s All About the Girls, formed in 2013, has subsequently brought several hundred new female owners to the sport. Global Glamour, the syndicate’s Group 1 winning filly, was offered as a prime example of the international reach of such syndicates, boasting 40 owners from eight countries. 

Ms Megumi Ichiyama, the Chief of Staff of the Japan Racing Association Publicity Department, shared with delegates the strategy of the UMAJO project which commenced in 2012 and is aimed at attracting women to the racecourse. 

The project was launched when the JRA realised that less than 14% of all racegoers in Japan were women. Research showed that women not only wanted to race in comfort, but also wanted to be provided with information and to be guided on racing when attending as a newcomer,” Ms Ichiyama said. 

 

This led to the creation of the UMAJO SPOT, an area set up exclusively for women at each of the JRA’s Racecourses. Here women are offered concierge services, introductory brochures, refreshments and even educational tours. The JRA also realised that the horse is a key attraction factor for women and have used this successfully in their poster campaigns. To date the project has already shown to be beneficial with female attendance growing to 17% in 2017.


Reaching and expanding racing’s fan base was the topic of the first half of the third plenary session of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul. Mr Niall Sloane, ITV’s Director of Sport, opened the session with an insightful look into ITV’s approach to racing. 

Mr Sloane’s presentation, titled – “Did I mention it’s supposed to be fun?” – revealed that viewing figures for the famed Grand National have increased by 45% since ITV took over the coverage with the network recently awarded by BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for best sports coverage in 2017. 

“Most people at a racecourse are losing money but they are having an amazing time losing it and it is this concept of having fun that we need to take to the people. Sport is popular and no show reaches a bigger audience than the Grand National. Yet racing needed a fresh, more reachable approach,” he said.  

“Racing has to work out what it wants to be and we the broadcasters are tasked with showing it to the people. The one thing we need is a bigger audience and we need to explain to that audience what racing means, to showcase its unique attributes and to attract more people to attend those fixtures. As broadcasters we are your window to the world. We can show the drama, the passion and the action through what is captured on film at each racecourse.” 

Mr Sloane concluded by saying: “Racing is a complex sport and needs all the help it can get. Make racing fun, make the language easy to understand and simplify the betting. And above all, remember that racing is an extraordinary sport and nothing comes close to it.” 

Dr Oonagh Chan, Senior Consultant, Media, Technology and Content Production at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, has been in the media industry for 42 years and is an expert in television production system design and mega display technologies. Chan shared her views on upcoming television trends and the application of new technologies in sports television coverage. 

She explained to the assembled delegates that changing scenarios in broadcasting would have significant implications for how sport evolves in the next decade and beyond. 

“For the modern fan the experience needs to be immersive and immediate – anywhere, any time, any platform any device. Most people have two or three devices and they want their content available on those content devices,” she said.  

According to Dr Chan, televised sports coverage, including racing coverage, needs to be ready to adapt to changes, aligning with the latest technology, such as the use of a two-point cable-cam system which operated at 128kmph along the backstretch during the 2018 Kentucky Derby. “Such technology brings the action closer to the viewers letting them feel that they are involved. We are constantly looking for new technologies to bring a better experience to the viewer.” 

In conclusion, Dr Chan said she sees the leveraging of technology as the way forward: “For example mounting a 360-degree camera on top of a jockey’s helmet during an actual race, enables viewers to change the camera angle in order to watch the other horses in the race and that changes the way that the race is being viewed.” 

Continuing with the theme of satisfying the viewing customer, Mr Min Ki Shim, Associate Manager of the Marketing Department of the Korea Racing Authority, drew the assembled delegates into the rapidly expanding culture of eSports. The eSports industry has a rapidly growing global fan base, with tens of thousands of fans visiting stadiums to watch league games. With racing in a quest to expand its dwindling fan base, Mr Shim explained what led to the explosive growth of eSports, particularly in Korea, and what lessons the Sport of Kings could learn from the King of eSports. 

Mr Shim highlighted the incredible popularity of Korean eSports star Lee Sang-hyoek, known as “Faker,” with annual earnings between US$3-4 million. The 22 year-old sensation claims millions of social media followers and, in a comparison to racing, generated more than three times the number of Google results relative to 2015 American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. 

Despite their differences, Mr Shim stressed that racing and eSports could find particularly valuable points of parity, reminding delegates that the retention rate of information at the beginner level is critical. He cited an MIT Game Lab study which showed the most successful, or mega-games, have an effective and engaging tutorial for the newest players. 

“For beginners to engage in eSports, as in horse racing, the provision of information is essential, but it must be easy to understand and concise,” he said.

 


Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, called for the creation of a global brand for racing and examination of the challenges and opportunities associated therewith at today’s 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul.

“What is the global brand of racing and how can we ensure that brand is well received across an ever changing world-wide market place?” Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges asked to begin the session which also heard from Mr Phil Lynch, CEO of Media, Manchester United Football Club, which has sport’s most valuable global brand. 

Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said that horse racing must create a brand identifiable with “world class racing sport and entertainment,” and with a relentless global focus. “Anyone with a mobile device can be engaged anywhere and at anytime. Developing a global racing brand is a major platform for growth and prosperity,” he said. 

“It is my vision that within the next decade, racing can climb back to become one of the world’s top 10 sports,” he said, noting that horse racing, not so long ago one of the world’s most popular sports, now ranks outside the world’s top 20 in the global popularity stakes. “That racing is no longer in the top 20 is a wake-up call for all of us.”

Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said that horse racing had lost popularity as it became more perceived as a gambling sport only. 

“A global brand is necessary in the fast-changing sport and gaming landscape. Our brand is dominated by gambling and we have to change that perception. We need to position racing in a way which will enable its customers and potential customers to recognise the aspects of the sport that will appeal to them. By doing this, racing will be able to expand its fan base across demographic groups.

“The brand is our promise to our customers on who we are and what they can expect from us. It differentiates us from our competitors. Each brand has an identity – which is how we want our customers to perceive our products and our brand itself – each brand has to have positioning,” Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said. 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges called for a master plan which creates “emotional attachment” and targets a broader audience. “In the past we have individually made an effort to increase the awareness of our horses, jockeys and races but we have been preaching to ourselves. We have to change our brand position and broaden our customer base and I ask all major racing organisations to share this global vision,” he said. 

Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges was unequivocal in calling for the highest standards of integrity and a commitment to eradicate the use of race day medications and doping and a commitment to high standards in overall horse welfare.

“First, before any push for a global racing brand, we need commitment from all stakeholders on integrity, anti-doping and horse welfare. If we don't have these fundamentals in order we will have no chance. We have too many people who try to bend the rules. It needs a strong commitment to medication-free racing from everybody in the sport, it’s an absolute must. There is no room for ambiguity.”

Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges also said that horse racing must push beyond the widely-held perception that it is purely a vehicle for gambling. He argued that its greatest appeal lies in what he termed its “sub-brands,” the racehorses, the jockeys and the races. 

“We have to broaden our fan-base and to do that we clearly have to shift from gaming as the main brand, to leisure and entertainment; racing must be positioned as world class sport,” he said. 

Mr Lynch, CEO of Media at Manchester United, spoke about the need to maintain brand relevance outside of the physical duration of a sports event, and stressed the importance of utilising multiple platforms in uniquely-tailored ways in order to meet the individual expectations of global consumers across demographic groups.  

“We have identified the need to keep fans engaged beyond the 90 minutes of the game and develop platforms of direct dialogue with our consumers wherever they might be,” Mr Lynch said, noting that Manchester United had 659 million followers and a cumulative annual television audience of three billion. 

Mr Lynch said the club’s communication was tailored and targeted to suit the specific demographic of the audience with very little “double up” through various social media platforms. 

“You cannot over post,” he said in reference to a social media strategy. “If you don’t have a presence when the customer is scrolling through any feed at any given time then you miss them. And the message has to be targeted given an average internet attention span of eight seconds.”

Still, Mr Lynch added, “when it comes to content, the overarching question should be – is it compelling enough to push send?”


The plenary sessions of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul were introduced today with an outline of the conference’s business programme and an examination of racing through the “Asian Century,” focusing on consumer demographics and the opportunities presented by Asia’s rapid economic growth.

Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, outlined the week’s agenda and reaffirmed that much of the focus would be on racing’s need to engage with the modern consumer. 

“To set the stage, over the next three days we will hear from 50 accomplished speakers and industry experts across 12 individual plenary sessions covering a variety of issues. Key among them will be  recognising that the modern consumer demands a multi-sensory experience and that technology and innovation will play a massive role in an ever changing landscape,” he said. 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges introduced Mr Bernard Salt, founder of The Demographics Group (Australia) and expert on social, consumer, generational and demographic trends world-wide, who told the conference of the global trends which underpin the rise of consumer spending in Asia and around the globe, outlining the demographic trends which could stimulate horse racing in growth markets. 

“I have a proposition,” Mr Salt challenged. “Asia is the fastest growing wealth-generating region in the world and, now, throughout history. Asia’s spending patterns are changing with a focus on leisure and entertainment and the (racing) industry needs to grab this opportunity with both hands.”

The core of Mr Salt’s presentation was that rising prosperity, new individual freedoms and corporate success is driving demand for leisure and sporting activities across the emerging and established markets of Asia and beyond. Mr Salt argued that a new generation of millennials are motivated to showcase their professional success via activities including horse racing and that, at the other end of the spectrum, increased average life expectancy has baby boomers altering their spending patterns. 

Mr Salt noted that China, Japan, India, Australia and host nation South Korea are projected to be in the world’s top 12 nations based on GDP by 2028 and economic growth and maturity drives consumer spending. 

The key factor for horse racing, according to Mr Salt, is that Asia’s growing middle class will demand leisure and entertainment products which promote self-esteem, and cited a recent study demonstrating that luxury spending is on the rise in Asia. 

“Rising prosperity delivers more leisure time and discretionary spending with an emphasis on products which are ‘taggable’ via social media and the new generation of millennials demand 24/7 screen engagement with tailored products that enhances their brand and self-esteem.”

Mr Salt drew the link between prosperity and sporting success with China, Japan and South Korea in the top 10 in the gold medal count at the Rio Olympics of 2016, while only host nation South Korea managed a top 10 spot nearly three decades earlier when the Olympics were held in Seoul. 

Despite competition from other leisure activities, Mr Salt said that horse racing can fill a niche for aspirational customers looking for a premium experience given that it is male and female inclusive; offers a premium fashion and dining experience and corporate entertainment. 

“Racing’s opportunity centres on capturing the growing middle classes if it can improve global broadcasting and embrace and develop technology-enhanced experiences. Consumers are spending less on standard entertainment and more on tailored experiences with sports lessons leading the way. 

“Horse racing can capitalise on the consumer view that it is a marquee symbol of economic and personal success and that the growing corporate culture through Asia presents the opportunity to sell racing to sponsors and potential owners as a premium leisure experience.”

 


The 37th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) commenced in Seoul on Monday night with a colourful opening ceremony. After the chief delegates of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) members took to the stage, the CEO and Chairman of the Korea Racing Authority, Mr Kim Nag Soon welcomed delegates and invited guests to Korea and delivered the opening address. 

“In the last 13 years since the previous ARC conference in Korea, we have strived for excellence and we have been successful, with the achievement of being promoted to Part II status. Open door and international competition policies have, in return, resulted in Korean horses running in reputable international races such as those at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.  

“Our aims for the near future is for Korea to be elevated to Part 1 of the Blue Book and the promotion and the production of Group 1 horses. This conference is a true celebration of Asian racing. Korean racing will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022 and we are committed to becoming one of the best racing authorities in the world. I am looking forward to intriguing discussions in the upcoming sessions of this Asian Racing Conference.” 

Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, ARF chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, welcomed assembled delegates and invited guests to the conference on behalf of the ARF.  

“I am pleased to welcome you all to Korea for the 37th Asian Racing Conference. I would like to begin by thanking the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Kim Nag Soon, and all of his many colleagues from the Korea Racing Authority for their tireless efforts to ensure a wonderful week. From our experience at the races on Sunday and today’s bureau meetings, it is quite clear that we are set for an excellent Conference.” 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges commended Korea on the incredible progress made since hosting the conference 13 years ago, and highlighted the substantial achievements within the Asian Racing Federation since the 36th ARC in Mumbai, especially in the areas of anti-doping and ant-illegal betting. The ARF’s policy position on anabolic steroids was adopted by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) in October 2017, and recently a formal IFHA Reference Laboratory programme was established. Further achievements include the establishment of the ARF’s Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce and the major progress made in overcoming barriers to horse exports. 

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges set the stage for the upcoming week. “We have a great deal of ground to cover over the next three days, but with history as our guide from past ARCs, I have no doubt that the 37th ARC will provide fruitful discussions and a path towards progress. We gather this week under the theme – ‘Innovate, Collaborate, Transform’ – words that resonate here in Korea, a country synonymous with innovation and energy. In the past two years, we have witnessed the accelerated growth of Korean racing, making serious efforts to internationalise, and succeeding in welcoming horses from all corners to compete. 

“Our dynamic industry, which spans many sectors of the global economy, faces a series of modern challenges and ever-growing threats from agile competition. Racing must be moving ever forward – we must innovate, we must collaborate, and we must transform. Over the next three days we will discuss the strategies and opportunities being pursued by the wagering industry, how to better reach and expand our fan base, and how racing is addressing a series of threats to the integrity of the sport, – from gene-doping to illegal betting. We will explore issues of safety and welfare, both for our equine and human athletes, during and after their careers, and discuss how our sport connects with popular culture.” 

Mr Park Joo Sun, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of South Korea, and Mr Kim Hyun Soon, Vice Minister of Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs offered welcoming remarks to the assembled delegates, which hailed from more than 40 jurisdictions.  

The evening concluded with a gala dinner and a celebration of Korean culture through music and dance. 

For more information on the 37th Asian Racing Conference, visit ArcSeoul2018.com. 

 


Following further in-depth analysis and discussion, the Handicappers have opted to re-rate the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Challenge, run at Turffontein Racecourse on Saturday 5 May 2018. 

It was the unanimous opinion of the Handicappers that this was a particularly awkward race to assess, with two horses finishing four lengths and more ahead of the balance of the field.  Initially, the Handicappers took the view that by finishing a close second, ABASHIRI was very unlikely to have run worse than when he finished sixth in the Grade 3 Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m on 9 November 2017.  Accordingly, the Premier’s Champions Challenge was rated using ABASHIRI to the level of 117 which he had achieved in the Victory Moon Stakes and also earlier on in his career. 

This level for the race had the winner CORAL FEVER running to 120, ABASHIRI to 117, and every other horse in the race from 3rd place downwards running below his/her rating.  However, after considerable further reflection, the Handicappers decided to reconsider the race.  The fact that the first two finishers beat the rest of the field by a wide margin was probably skewing the numbers and it was decided after much debate to reduce the level of the race by 2 pounds, even though most of the field was already running below their rating on the original, higher level. 

It was decided that the 3rd placed SILVAN STAR would be used as a Line Horse, not to her rating of 108 (which she has achieved racing against fillies and mares), but to a rating of 108 minus the 5 pounds sex allowance which a filly receives in the race.  Rating the race using SILVAN STAR to a level of 103 drops the level by 2 pounds and accordingly CORAL FEVER has had his rating reduced from 120 to 118 and ABASHIRI has had his rating cut from 117 to 115.  The balance of the field retain the adjustments as originally assessed. 

The Handicappers are fully satisfied that this is the better of the two options, and have opted to err on the side of caution given the tricky nature of the race.  However, it was unanimously agreed that the race level would be far too low if either CORAL FEVER or ABASHIRI were used as the line horse/s and would not be fair in relation to other beaten runners in the race. 

The Handicapping Panel of The National Horseracing Authority