asian racing conferenceEquine Veterinary Science Session
(Photo : Asian Racing Conference)

Wednesday at the 32nd Asian Racing Conference stimultated varied and thorough discussions on how to maximize the value of racing.

Dr. Isamu Takizawa, the Japan Racing Association’s Presidential Counselor for Foreign Affairs, set the tone for the third plenary session with the opening remarks, in which he stressed the need for racing to reach out to a wider audience.

“We must pay attention to domestic and international audiences in order to appeal to a wider client base,” Dr. Isamu Takizawa said. “The answers are pretty simple: when we look at the pinnacle event of other sports such as the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the Masters in golf. They are genuinely international competitions, and simply and easy to understand. Indeed, our aim is to build thoroughbred racing into a popular sport that is loved and watched by people around the world.”

The nine presenters - among them trainer and former star jockey Michael Roberts - agreed that regardless of issue, the 22 member nations of the Asian Racing Federation would have to work hand in hand if the sport were to reach another height of popularity.

William Nader, Executive Director of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, pointed out that the ARF needs an ambassador to carry racing around the continent and to the rest of the world like the other sports that have been successful.

“It is interesting, however, that we choose the word Challenge to describe a series of races like the Global Sprint and the Asian Mile format, because these series to come with unique challenges - the biggest of which are related to travel,” William Nader said.

“Participation is a key driver in any major sport where the major stars like Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton and others routinely travel as part of building interest and awareness in their own identity and the identity of their respective sport.”

Improving the overall quality of the product is another aspect that must be addressed, and Horse Racing Ireland’s Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh suggested the hugely successful Irish way would be one way of doing it.

“We aim to stage a high quality and competitive race program in Ireland, underpinned by attractive prize money and progressive elimination of opportunities for lower quality horses,” Brian Kavanagh said.

“This is born out of necessity given the number of horses in our country and to encourage owners to reinvest and upgrade the quality of their stock. This leads to much frustration on the part of owners and trainers, but following initial resistance, there has been general acceptance for the principle of less racing, more emphasis on quality and a high minimum prize money level.”

Dominic Beirne, Director of Intelligent Wagering Solutions, said a worldwide standardized ratings, rankings and language must accompany the globalization of racing, and the ARF, given its representation of half the international racing community, is in an excellent position to kickstart the process.

“The ARF is well placed therefore to instigate a ratings and rankings information service on half the world’s racehorses, which should lead to the inclusion of the Americas and Europe, resulting in a Global Free Handicap,” said Dominic Beirne. “There will naturally be opposition to the idea of creating a Global Free Handicap, yet all decent ideas present significant challenges. The globalization of racing demands the standardization of ratings, rankings and language.”

The topic of medication and drugs was also addressed. Dr. Brian Stewart, The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Head of Veterinary Regulation and International Liaison, equine medication ought to be harmonized internationally, to create a level playing field as well as welfare and safety.

“It seems very logical to pursue harmonization of medication testing sensitivity, but this is a controversial topic and there are inevitably heated discussions about the subject when analysts, veterinarians, horsemen and racing administrators discuss the subject,” Dr. Brian Stewart said.

“The ARF racing authorities are in a position to lead the world in achieving some consistency of medication policy and harmonization of the sensitivity of testing for therapeutic medications and should grasp the opportunity to do so.”

James Murdoch QC, Barrister-at-Law, echoed Stewart while calling for a racing program completely free of drugs.

“The solution may lie in adopting an International Anti-horse Doping Rule,” said James Murdoch. “Will it be difficult to achieve? Yes. Will it assist in securing the future of racing? Yes.”

Also speaking were Nigel Gray, Head of Handicapping and Race Planning of The HKJC; Bart Sinclair, Turf Editor of The Courier Mail; Dr. Ed Houghton, Chair of the Advisory Council on Prohibited Substances of the IFHA; and Tsunekazu Takeda, President of the Japan Olympic Committee.