ON the back of Variety Club displaying for the world to see, yet again, the quality of South Africa’s racehorses, doubtless this week’s Asian Racing Conference will have earnest discussions about how to achieve change to the onerous quarantine regulations that keep them at home, writes ALAN AITKEN in an editorial published in the midweek edition of the South China Morning Post.
The multi award-winning SCMP, 111 old this year, has 400,000 daily readers of their newspaper, a staggering 2.1-million unique visitors to their online edition and is described as “the gold standard for news publishing; the most influential paper for elite business readers in Hong Kong”.
Aitken goes on to note:
What kind of clout the ARC might have in this area is open to question – as we have seen with attempts to ease Australian quarantine regulations, governments are rarely moved by the wishes of a bunch of racing administrators or wealthy breeders pushing for change in an area with national and international implications beyond horse racing.
So, South African horses will probably still have to travel via Alpha Centauri to compete for the immediate future. But the catalyst for change could come in a few years, when it is understood that South Africa plans to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.
Bids are usually decided seven years ahead, so the process would begin in 2015 or 2016 and part of any bid, presumably, would need to be some progress on the movement of horses in and out of the country for equestrian events.
That’s when some change could occur because you have governments, not just sporting bodies, talking to governments and other international authorities and suddenly the parties are all speaking the same language.
If change does come, it will have implications for the normal run of things in Hong Kong, as freer movement of South African horses would put them firmly on the radar to be a big part of the horse population here.
The economic realities of Europe and Australasia are that the types of raced horses pursued by Hong Kong buyers have largely become too expensive, and yearling sales . . . well, they are the lion’s den indeed. There is an opening for a new, cheaper market to open up and the talent that top South African horses display, when they do get overseas to compete, suggests it is the one.
Importantly, they share the traits that make Australasian-bred horses the dominant force in Hong Kong – speed, precocity and firm track talent – but will be much cheaper, at least in the early days until market forces again run wild.