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International horse racing visits Inner Mongolia

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
The China Horse Club will stage a four-race Thoroughbred event Aug. 21 at Ordos in Inner Mongolia.
The China Horse Club will stage a four-race Thoroughbred event Aug. 21 at Ordos in Inner Mongolia.

ORDOS, Mongolia, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The China Horse Club, an up and coming player on the international racing scene, will rack up several firsts on Sunday with a four-race program at the futuristic Yiqi Race Course.

The races are part of the China Equine Cultural Festival, which wraps into the third annual Nadamu, an iconic cultural festival of the Mongolian people.

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The CHC will, for the first time, provide live streaming of Thoroughbred racing from Mainland China to international markets, including the United States, Great Britain, India, Australia and South Africa. The race meeting also is the first to include involvement of Ordos city government and the government of Yiqi, site of the race course; marks the first shipment of Thoroughbreds into Ordos International Airport; and represents the first running of international-standard Thoroughbred races at the track.

"The support from the Organizing Committee of the Ordos Nadam, from Ordos City and Yiqi Governments, from partners and sponsors across China and from the international community has been exceptional and has ensured this weekend's CECF Ordos will be the most significant we have ever held," said Teo Ah Khing, chairman of the CECF Ordos Organizing Committee.

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"Our local partners are headed by the Yitai Group, who have the naming rights to our feature race, and we enjoy the support of the Australian Turf Club, Desert Star Holdings and the International Breeders' Inc., as well as the world's leading auction houses, studs, domestic and international media, banks and a variety of other industries," he added.

The participation of many segments of the international racing community -- as well as appearances by jockeys from as far afield as Barbados, Australia and Russia -- reflects the growing CHC footprint on the world scene. Established in 2013, the club quickly has become a major player in auctions around the world and horses owned by its members' partnerships have won high-level races in several jurisdictions, including 11 Group 1 events through February of this year.

Earlier this month, the CHC made waves in the United States bloodstock market, paying US$750,000 for a Tapit colt at the Fasig-Tipton auction of selected yearlings at Saratoga. "Colts like that deserve to make that sort of money," Michael Wallace, who signed the ticket for the CHC, told The Blood-Horse.

And John Warren, racing and bloodstock advisor to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was appointed only days before the Ordos meeting as the new chairman of the China Horse Club's International Advisory Council -- a group that also includes Coolmore's John Magnier, one of the key players in the international breeding community.

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"Horse racing is an entertainment business," Warren said on the occasion of his appointment, "and the China Horse Club provides access to members in a world that is full of excitement, intrigue and glamour and the forthcoming CECF event in Ordos will give a taste of what is on offer on the world stage."

The Ordos races themselves will not be at a world-class level, as they are limited to horses owned by the club and its members. Rather, the weekend is a "lifestyle" event for CHC participants, designed around horse racing but primarily intended to give wealthy Chinese a forum for interacting with their peers amid plush surroundings.

That goal is reflected not only in the annual race meetings but also in the club's operation, for the benefit of its members, of a resort and spa in the Swiss Alps and an estate in the Australian countryside. The CHC also announced earlier this month an agreement with the government of Saint Lucia to develop the "Pearl of the Caribbean," a massive, US$2.8 billion project that will include housing, entertainment and leisure facilities, shopping, a casino and a race track with sufficient stabling to host an international racing festival.

The club has the chops to carry out the project. Its founder, Teo Ah Khing, built the iconic Meydan race course in Dubai, which annually hosts the world's richest race night including the US$10 million Dubai World Cup.

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Beyond the immediate enjoyment of the membership, the Ordos races and others held in previous years also contribute to a longer-range goal of the China Horse Club: The expansion and promotion of horse racing in mainland China. While racing is conducted at several sites throughout the country, a long-standing prohibition against betting has prevented it blossoming into a full-scale industry.

That could change and the CHC is among several organizations establishing positions on the mainland in hopes of playing a major role if and when the government should open the door to commercial racing. The stakes are huge, as demonstrated by the colossal, worldwide wagering totals on races in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

"Occasions like the CECF Ordos are vitally important at the grassroots level in developing new interest in Thoroughbred racing," said Eden Harrington, Vice President of the CHC and head of partnerships and membership, in announcing that the Australian auction house Magic Millions had extended its involvement in the event.

So, while its members enjoy themselves, network and bask in the glow of chic surroundings, the leadership of the China Horse Club will be banking the goodwill resulting from a successful event combining racing, Chinese culture and, perhaps most important, the cooperation of several layers of government.

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