Hong Kong season closes with strong growth and new highs
Hong Kong’s 2016/17 season closed out at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday with Time Warp’s impressive Sha Tin Mile Trophy victory played out before a crowd of 36,949 and season-long turnover hitting a new high of HK$117.4 billion.
Solar Hei Hei (No. 6), trained by David Hall and ridden by Matthew Poon, takes today’s Class 2 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy (1400m), the final race of the 2016/17 season, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “Our growth this year has been extraordinary, it has surprised me how strong it has been. This time last year we weathered a small economic storm that impacted the region and resulted in a 2% dip in our overall turnover, our first decline in eight seasons. To come back from that with a new record of HK$117.456 billion for the season, up 10.7% on 2015/16, is a tremendous performance.”
That record figure tops the HK$107.925 billion high of 2014/15 and strengthens the Club’s contribution to the community via taxation.
“Our rise in turnover means that we will make a record tax contribution of HK$13.1 billion, a HK$1 billion increase on last year, which shows the strength of our product and the important contribution we make to the Hong Kong community,” Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
Today’s race-day turnover came in at HK$1.858 billion – a record for an 11-race meeting in Hong Kong. The CEO acknowledged the extended season, which for the first time this term ran to 88 fixtures, five more than in the past, was a factor in that rise, but more so the success of the Club’s commingling strategy.
“Although we had five more mid-week race meetings this season, we staged only 22 more races. Comparing the full season of 83 meetings last year to this season’s equivalent, our turnover is really up 6.9%, with about two-thirds of that growth from local turnover and one third from commingling turnover,” he said.
“The incredible interest in Hong Kong racing from the commingling jurisdictions is one of the main drivers in this year’s growth,” he continued. “If you look at last year, the total turnover from commingling was HK$3.47 billion, which was 3.3% of the total; this year, with our expanding portfolio of partners, total turnover from commingling was HK$6.5 billion, an astounding increase of 87.1% and 5.7% of the total. This gives us significant optimism going into next season because we can see that the attractiveness of Hong Kong racing’s quality has really captured overseas markets.”
Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges also said it was “encouraging” to see increased day-to-day overseas interest in Hong Kong racing, which is now aired around the world. Today’s commingling turnover was a record at HK$183.4 million.
“Hong Kong racing attracts more and more attention because we are providing highly competitive racing, large field sizes, access to unparalleled racing information, and, of course, we ensure high standards when it comes to integrity and racing control measures,” he said.
He also pointed to the Club’s total gross margin this term: “A prime indicator of the health of our business is total gross margin,” he said, “so it is particularly pleasing to see that figure reach a record level, too, at HK$4.77 billion for the season, up 7.2% on last season.”
All 2016/17 Champion Awards winners celebrate with a champagne toast and group photo at Sha Tin on Sunday, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
The CEO also noted the high calibre of participants in Hong Kong, from elite jockeys and trainers, such as this season’s record-breaking champions Joao Moreira and John Size, to world-ranked horses.
“It is only 20 years since Hong Kong was first represented in the international rankings with Johan Cruyff, so to end 2016 with 26 horses in the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, which is a record for us, shows that we have come a long way,” he said, acknowledging that, “it will be tough for us to top that figure next season given our population of only 1,200 horses and the recent retirements of our stars like Able Friend, Designs On Rome and Aerovelocity.”
He pointed to some exciting highlights in the 2016/17 season, particularly Rapper Dragon’s historic sweep in the three-race Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Classic Series, and some fine Group 1 performances at Sha Tin’s big international race days.
“We have witnessed some exceptional sport this season,” he said. “Our international races were again world-class in December thanks to Maurice in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and Satono Crown’s defeat of Highland Reel in an outstanding Hong Kong Vase – the form of that race has held up very strongly since. And Hong Kong horses emphasised their talents once again, taking the first four places in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.”
The season’s total race-day attendance was 2.167 million, while average attendance came in at 24,600 – the same figure as a year ago – and, looking to the future, Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said that with the final stage of the Racecourse Master Plan almost complete, the Jockey Club will continue to provide on-course entertainment options suited to its various customer segments.
“In the face of an abundance of competing personal entertainment options, we have made a conscious effort to provide modern, interactive and engaging racecourse experiences, and we greatly appreciate the on-going support of racing fans,” he said.
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges thanked the Club’s Owners, Members, race fans, the racing media and the Club’s staff for their continued support.
Club CEO Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Executive Director, Racing Authority Mr. Andrew Harding and Executive Director, Racing Business and Operations Mr. Anthony Kelly, toast to the successful conclusion of the 2016/17 Hong Kong racing season, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club