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Jockey Club promises to ‘put a good show up’ at HKIR after quarantine dropped

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has promised to “put a good show up” for visitors to December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races as the Jockey Club’s showpiece event looks poised to finally return to something close to normal.

After operating under significant restrictions in the past two years, international day will be one of many things to benefit from the government’s decision last week to drop hotel quarantine.

“Definitely the decision of the government with the ‘0+3’ is a major boost for the international races. We will go all out to make it a major, major international event with the top horses, trainers and owners,” said Engelbrecht-Bresges, who declared earlier this month that HKIR is “a unique opportunity” to promote Hong Kong’s reopening.

“It is extremely exciting. We will go all out to show Hong Kong is open and back in business.”

Overseas participants have been confined to a quarantine bubble in the past two years but this year, after completing three days of medical surveillance, will be able to mingle as normal.

“During the first three days we will have them in certain groups and we will do the monitoring, but it won’t be a major inconvenience like it was,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“For us that is key because it is extremely important we show the world we have gone through a significantly challenging period but we are not afraid of challenges and we are able to gear up pretty quick.

Golden Sixty wins the 2020 Hong Kong Mile in front of an almost-empty grandstand.

“One of the things we are working on at the moment, if there is a certain confinement for [international visitors], we can organise restaurants in our premises for them so that they stay in this bubble. It will be something that will be extremely convenient and we will definitely put a good show up.”

The Jockey Club is hoping to host the World’s Best Jockey ceremony, as well as a series of major meetings between global horse racing bodies.

Officials are also confident they will be able to increase crowd numbers in the coming months, with as many as 11,000 people expected to attend this Saturday’s National Day meeting after only 7,274 were on track at the weekend.

Crowd numbers have been down for the past three international days, with only 27,965 people on course in 2019 after months of protests and 2020 (271) and last year (18,600) hit by Covid-19 measures.

As chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, Englebrecht-Bresges will get a chance to spruik HKIR at next week’s International Conference of Horseracing Authorities in Paris, where the agenda will include the world pool, rules harmonisation and climate change.

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“For the international conference, one of the topics definitely will be that the world pool is a success. We have daily calls from people wanting to be in the world pool, and we want to expand the world pool further,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“Rules harmonisation is the key and one has to see now this discussion about mandatory disqualification if you have a certain number of strokes of the whip.

“If implemented, as a change of the placing of a horse for betting, that could prompt an interesting reaction from customers.

“And one topic I think racing has not yet addressed is sustainability and [becoming] carbon neutral.

“It’s a massive issue for everybody, and for racing, the whole industry has to be prepared for significant changes to how we operate. We have done a study, so that will be one of the topics.”

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