China and Ireland Horse Racing
China and Ireland Horse Racing

Multi-billion €uro deal between China and Ireland

(Image : IJ/Guardian)

“Irish racing will receive a much-needed boost to its economy”

We’ve been saying for some years now, that if China gets to the races, the world would not be able to supply the demand for racehorses. There’ve been several attempts on the part of private individuals or companies to kick start a racing industry in China, but their government has stifled all of these efforts by refusing to sanction any betting outside of the two former colonial enclaves, Hong Kong and Macau. The government knows how strong the Chinese propensity for gambling is, and until now, they’ve taken the view that these two meccas of the betting world already offer enough to satisfy an insatiable betting gene. As it is, there are strong restraints in place against mainland Chinese gambling even in Macau and Hong Kong, yet somehow legislation is no more than a case of plugging the dyke. If people want to bet, they’ll find a means of doing so, and no amount of rule-making will stop it.

We all know that despite the enormous cash pile the government is sitting on, the Chinese economy has shown worrying signs of overheating, and at the same time, it’s experiencing a steady decline in growth. So the government, to keep some form of stimulus in place, is compelled to look for other alternatives. China-watchers will tell you that a major part of the growth generated by government-controlled companies in the construction world, for example, has been driven by the development of enormous cities which stand empty, without a single inhabitant. Yes, these companies have been doing the building, but these cities presently have little purpose or meaning, and unless the population shows signs of growing again (there’s a one-child policy in China), it’s unlikely they will ever be fully occupied, unless they vacate existing ones. They obviously need to find other sustainable means to drive the economy, and racing, which is such an enormous job-creator, is an obvious way of achieving this. The lingering question though, has always been when they would press the trigger, and whose assistance they would solicit to achieve it.

Remember, the Chinese are not partial to the Americans (there seems to be a mutual distrust,) the Europeans are wary, they’ve been at war with the Japanese for centuries, and the Australians have been partisan in protecting their mining interests and preventing inward investment by Chinese companies into this sector. Of the major thoroughbred producing countries of the world, this leaves South America, New Zealand, Ireland and the long-shot, South Africa, remembering that both Brazil and South Africa are members of BRICS. Our problem of course, revolves around health protocols and African Horse Sickness, hence our “long-shot” status.

Although the UAE is not a producer of any magnitude, it was announced two years ago that Dubai’s Meydan, under the stewardship of Sheikh Mohammed, would be undertaking a major development just outside Beijing, but it seems the Irish have once again upstaged Dubai. We say “once again”, because for the past decade, Ireland’s Coolmore Stud has trumped the combined Dubai interests at the races, and now it seems they’ve got their foot in the Chinese door as the preferred partners.

Irish racing will receive a much-needed boost to its economy as a result of the announcement yesterday that a multi-billion €uro deal has been signed with China to launch the country’s Thoroughbred industry. Coolmore is at the forefront of the initiative to build a $2-billion equine centre over 3.3-million square meters in Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, as early as next year. The Irish bloodstock industry will ship more than 100 broodmares and a selection of stallions over the next three years to lay the foundations, while Coolmore has offered training for a group of agriculture graduates from Chinese universities, who will eventually run the breeding operation.

Horse Racing Ireland’s Director of Marketing and Communication, Michael O’Rourke said “We have an international marketing wing, and we’ve been entertaining delegations from China for some years. They’ve been seeing our stud farms and coming to our sales. What is particularly exciting about this is that this is the first deal of its kind sanctioned by the Chinese government. That is a big plus. This has great potential. A few years ago, our export of Thoroughbreds was worth €200million a year. They are talking about this project alone delivering €50million in about three years time, so that shows the scale of it.”