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HKJC in mainland China

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    update by Michael Cox, SCMP on new training complex due to open 2014, built with an eye to becoming a full racecourse:


    "John Ridley …..the Jockey Club’s racing operations director is the logistical mastermind behind what could be the biggest challenge in more than 125 years of racing in Hong Kong – extending the Jockey Club’s operations to the mainland.

    "Not only does the Conghua training complex in Guangdong mark the first time the club has established a significant presence beyond Hong Kong’s borders, it is a strategic step to help make the long sought-after dream of HKJC-run racing in China a possibility…..

    "In 2014, 400 horses will be prepared at the planned state-of-the-art Conghua facility, located 3-1/2 hours drive from Sha Tin – and Ridley is the man entrusted with the task of making sure it happens.

    "The club has moved mountains, literally, to build the complex – essentially chopping the top off a mountain to make space for a 150-hectare compound, 40 kilometres northeast of Guangzhou.

    "Originally developed for the 2010 Asian Games by the club, the site is now a whir of excavators which, by completion, will have shifted around 10 million cubic metres of soil. Ridley says the aim is to build a training centre that will still be considered cutting edge in 2025.

    "A racetrack with a turn radius of 200 metres, compared to the 150m of Sha Tin, is just the start of what will become home to around one-third of Hong Kong’s racehorses.

    "The racetrack will feature a rise of one metre over the last 400m – designed after extensive consultation with trainers – to maximise horse fitness, and nearby will be an English-style, 1,200m uphill gallop.

    "Mobile vet facilities, luxurious spelling paddocks and shoeing bays for each stable block will offset any concerns trainers might have about being based away from Sha Tin.

    "There will be people who will seize upon it and turn it into an advantage," Ridley said. "I believe we’ve designed a world-class facility and I have no doubt an innovator like [leading trainer] John Size will work out very quickly how to turn it into an advantage. Once someone gets results using the uphill gallops, or being able to put horses out in a paddock in the sun for a day … the others will change fairly quickly."

    "……As far as dreams go, they don’t get much bigger than the holy grail of expansion into China. It’s a vision Ridley doesn’t shy away from discussing, but he is flatly realistic about the possibilities. "I’ve heard it talked about since the day I arrived in ’94," he says.

    "Discussing the "if" or "when" of the Jockey Club running racing on the mainland might be stuff of fantasy, but if the green light is ever lit, Ridley says Conghua will be ready.

    "If you look at the layout, it’s not hard to tell that you could race there," he says. "It’s primarily designed as a training centre, but it has scope for the future and would be a wonderful racetrack.

    "I don’t think anybody knows what is going to happen with racing in China … but we’ve designed the facility so that if opportunities do come up, we can take advantage.

    "We’ve put in ducting for timing systems because at the construction phase that sort of thing is cheap to do. Even the lighting system is such that it can be easily changed. It’s adaptable and flexible. We have to make sure we can expand when and if we need to. We could easily go to 1,400 or 1,600 horses at that site."

    "Whether Conghua remains simply a world-class training facility, or germinates into the new frontier of Hong Kong racing, Ridley says he will find immense satisfaction in continuing whatever project comes next. " … 20129c.asp

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