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While the Club has made no public comment, the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) will not be buying at next week’s Magic Millions Sales. Steve reports:

Steve Moran | 06.01.2018

Vin Cox, the outgoing Magic Millions managing director, confirmed yesterday that the HKJC would not attend the sale and whether it will support the later yearling sales in Australia this year remains unclear while the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) imposed restrictions on horse movement from Hong Kong to Australia remain in place.

It is also remains to be seen whether the HKJC will take any simulcast race meetings, from Australia this year, which are a significant revenue generator for the host clubs in Australia. Eight meetings from Australia were simulcast into Hong Kong last year.

The HKJC will be active at the Karaka Sales from 28 January which may well be a boon for New Zealand Bloodstock. It is also expected to attend the 2018 Cape Premier Yearling Sale in South Africa from 20 January.

The HKJC bought 11 colts at last year’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale for circa $2,700,000 and have also been prolific buyers in Melbourne and Sydney in recent years. It outlayed $4,800,000 for 11 yearlings at the 2017 Inglis’ Sydney Easter and Melbourne Premier sales.

The Club bought six colts at last year’s New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale for a total outlay of NZ$1,500,000.

The impact of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s decision is significant not only in what it spends but also in terms of the prices made by lots on which it is underbidder; not to mention the potential loss of a minimum of $200,000 per meeting for the host clubs of simulcast meetings.

Thus, this is an issue of much greater importance than just horse movement between the two jurisdictions

“We are, of course, disappointed that the Hong Kong Jockey Club will not be active at our sale this year. It’s an unfortunate situation which is beyond our control. Along with others in the industry, we have tried to use our influence but understand that the Department (of Agriculture) must go through due process. I believe that discussions are heading the right way but any resolution will take time, said Cox who is still expecting strong support from independent Hong Kongbased buyers.

Inglis Managing Director, Mark Webster is also optimistic that the issue can be resolved.

“The current ban on imports from HK is unfortunate for stakeholders in Hong Kong and the Australian thoroughbred breeding and racing industry, however it can be fixed. I personally have engaged with the Australian Department of Agriculture and others to better understand the issue and to help find a solution.

“I have not been advised of any formal decision yet by the HKJC on attendance at Inglis sales, but I can say we are doing all that we can to help resolve the matter and I hope that is understood in Hong Kong.

“From my dealings with government and the department it’s clear this is a biosecurity and scientific matter to resolve not a political one. All we can do is encourage government and the department to expedite the assessment process. The HKJC are world class administrators, I am confident they have robust biosecurity processes in place and would not put their own racing operations at risk. We need the Australian Government and the Department of Agriculture to take this on board and complete their review quickly,” Webster said.

It’s believed the issue has now risen in the list of DAWR priorities as a consequence of the efforts of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA).

The TBA has been proactive in maintaining dialogue with the former Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, his successor David Littleproud, the DAWR’s head of biosecurity Tim Chapman and Andrew Harding, HKJC, Executive Director, Racing Authority and in improving direct lines of communication between the HKJC and the key people in Australia.

“I personally raised the significance of this issue with Barnaby Joyce back in October and have had dozens of conversations with all the key parties since. We have a new minister who has a grasp of the breeding and racing industry and understands this issue. TBA is working hard to ensure this matter is resolved as quickly as possible, said Tom Reilly, the TBA’s chief executive officer.

Industry representatives, led by Reilly and Racing Victoria’s international consultant Leigh Jordon, will meet with the DAWR next week.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s venture to South Africa is consistent with views expressed by it’s CEO, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, last year and poses a possible threat to the Australian market. “We have a major ambition which is to open up South Africa to be part of a wider international scene,” he said.

The impending opening of the HKJC’s Conghua Training Facility, which is at the heart of DAWR concerns, will facilitate an increase in the number of horses trained in Hong Kong and, potentially, China which further underlines the economic importance of Australia’s relationship with the thriving Hong Kong industry.

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