(From left) Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland; Rod Street, Chief Executive of the British Champions Series Limited; William A. Nader, Executive Director, Racing, of the Hong Kong Jockey Club; and Craig Fravel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Breeders’ Cup Limited, at the session / ARC (p)

(From left) Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland; Rod Street, Chief Executive of the British Champions Series Limited; William A. Nader, Executive Director, Racing, of the Hong Kong Jockey Club; and Craig Fravel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Breeders’ Cup Limited, at the session / ARC (p)


5-8 May 2014

Michele MacDonald - The rise of international racing in all corners of the world, with big money, big media and big stars flashing over new horizons, could lead to the reinvention of a “World Series Of Racing” concept, as well as focused cross promotion of championship events.

Several key racing leaders noted the connections between racing’s marquee days and suggested there are major opportunities that could be capitalized on by the sport. Their discussion proved to be one of the liveliest exchanges of ideas at the 35th Asian Racing Conference, which concluded in Hong Kong yesterday.

“Intuitively, it feels right,” said Rod Street, chief executive of the British Champions Series, of linking together the world’s most brilliant racing events in an official series.

“I think it will evolve again,” predicted Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, who noted that the first attempt at a racing World Series about a decade ago ultimately failed on the issue of media rights and ownership of video pictures.

“These international race meetings will link together informally and may create a more formal link. Certainly one of our priorities is to link the European championship days,” Kavanagh said.

Horse Racing Ireland’s newly created Irish Champions Weekend will be inaugurated Sept. 13 and 14 and will be followed on the calendar by France’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Weekend on 4-5 October and British Champions day 18 October.

The three prestigious European events will wind up two weeks prior to the beginning of the two-day Breeders’ Cup on 31 October at Santa Anita Park, and the key races in each of the European programs have at times delivered brilliant runners for Cup races.

While the development of more big-race events in other parts of the world will provide competition for Breeders’ Cup in obtaining top runners, Breeders’ Cup President and Chief Executive Officer Craig Fravel also sees potential synergies.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for us,” said Fravel, who was one of nine panelists during the session, titled “Big Events, Today and Tomorrow,” suggesting that “we can be a lot better” at promoting racing’s best occasions collaboratively.

There have already been mutual efforts, Fravel noted, including when French authorities worked together with Breeders’ Cup to promote sensational champion Goldikova (Ire) (Anabaa), who swept through three triumphs in the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile. The dual efforts encouraged betting in both France and the U.S., and thus boosted racing in both jurisdictions while stimulating more interest further abroad as well. The Breeders’ Cup, with 30 runnings since its creation in 1984, has served as an example for other nations to follow in creating their own championships,” Fravel said, adding that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

“The interest is only going to continue to grow,” Fravel said in looking to the Cup’s future. He explained that one of Breeders’ Cup’s strategies for generating increased interest is this year’s new Challenge Series for television, which will have 11 American telecasts on NBC and NBCSN featuring 18 of the automatic “Win and You’re In” prep races for the Cup. “It’s going to be an extraordinary lead-in to the Breeders’ Cup. We are very optimistic it is going to drive interest in the Breeders’ Cup itself,” Fravel said.

Big international championships events, with the world’s largest prizes that lure the most brilliant runners, are significant drivers of fan interest and involvement with racing, as well as important avenues for promoting host nations and their general racing programs.

William Nader, Hong Kong Jockey Club executive director of racing and former New York Racing Association executive, noted that while the Hong Kong International Races programme so far has not developed as the club’s biggest wagering day, it has been invaluable in lifting the recognition of Hong Kong racing around the world.

“Our priorities for our International Races are much different than our business-as-usual race days,” said Nader. “We look at it as our flagship day; it’s about really showcasing the best of Hong Kong, international competition, fashion and lifestyle - a celebration of what the sport really is.”

Domestic races in Hong Kong generate an average of US$17 million in handle per race; by way of comparison, a routine eight-race programme at Happy Valley Racecourse during the ARC generated $135 million in handle, more than $10 million over the total bets on the GI Kentucky Derby. Hong Kong’s international races are growing in handle, although local bettors still prefer to play local horses in local races.

Martin Talty, who directs international racing for the Dubai Racing Club, concurred with Nader that the major racing days “have gone beyond wagering - they are more international sporting events.”

“We can proudly say of all the international racing events around the world, the international participation in the Dubai World Cup is probably at the top,” Talty said.

Additionally, the eight-race Dubai World Cup programme is the globe’s most lucrative racing event and next year will be worth $29 million following $1 million increases each for the G1 Dubai Duty Free and G1 Dubai Sheema Classic. Each of those turf races will now be worth $6 million while the Dubai World Cup remains the planet’s richest race at $10 million.

While no wagering is allowed in Dubai itself, betting on the World Cup card is conducted around the globe, with revenues generated going toward funding Dubai racing.

Wagering is extremely significant in other jurisdictions, as Kaoru Obata, director of customer service and public relations for the Japan Racing Association, noted. Japan’s G1 Arima Kinen, the season-ending championship contest, last year generated $350 million in handle, an amount equal to 1.5% of the total JRA turnover for the year. The G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) generated $240 million in betting, or 1% of the annual total.

“It is critical to target and focus on big events. You have to tell the public how exciting it is to pick the winner and how beautiful the horses are,” Obata said.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News