Outstanding sport underpinned Hong Kong’s 2015/16 season, which closed out at Sha Tin racecourse today, Sunday, 10 July, with a stronger than anticipated financial performance across its 83 race meetings. Champions were crowned before an enthusiastic crowd of 45,783, and, with the season’s HK$106.14 billion total turnover the second-highest ever recorded – only marginally down on last year’s all-time peak figure – the season finale offered measured optimism for next season when the Hong Kong racing calendar will extend to 88 fixtures.
Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “A year ago, despite having just secured record turnover figures, we talked about the season ahead being one of resilience due to the slowing down of the Hong Kong economy, that this naturally would have an impact on our financials. But Hong Kong racing has shown tremendous resilience. The total gross margin, which is what we have as a Club to run our operation, was HK$4.458 billion, which is only down by 1% – so in the overall context this is an extremely good result – and from April onwards we had a very positive trend, so this leaves us cautiously optimistic for next season.”
The record turnover for a single season of HK$107.92 billion posted one year ago was the summit of what Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges termed “a remarkable decade of growth”, the total for season 2005/06 having been only HK$60 billion. “Here we are, one decade on, and although we forecast a dip of about three percent from last year’s high, we have finished this season with a total turnover down by just 1.7% percent on one year ago,” he said.
“If you look at today it was the highest turnover ever for an 11-race card, with record turnover of HK$1.83 billion, which is an amazing figure. Also, our betting duty contribution for this year was HK$12.1 billion, whereas if you go back 10 years that figure was HK$8 billion, so this contribution to the Hong Kong community is certainly something that we are very proud of.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges talked of “one astonishing figure” related to commingling, a key component of the Club’s long-term business strategy.
“The commingling figure today is a record HK$74 million, which is HK$11 million up on the previous record,” he said, further noting that “Hong Kong racing as a global product is extremely attractive and this shows that it definitely has further growth potential. This season the commingling turnover was up by 31%, which is amazing. We are already looking forward to another good season ahead, the first in Hong Kong’s history to offer 88 domestic race meetings, and with an increase in our overseas simulcast occasions to 23, up from 15.”
The day’s attendance was a four-year high for the season finale, which pushed the season’s overall attendance to 2.042 million, and Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges praised racing fans for their role in Hong Kong’s success and applauded them for creating a unique atmosphere at Sha Tin’s major occasions.
“The atmosphere today was outstanding, as it has been so many times this season” he said. “You just had to hear the cheers from the public at the start of the last race; it shows the tremendous enjoyment people get from being here and participating in this wonderful sport.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges emphasised the world class sport that Hong Kong racing’s fans were privileged to witness throughout 2015/16, highlighting Hong Kong’s latest star, Werther, as a standout and noting the very high quality of the overseas raiders that were attracted to Sha Tin’s showcase Group 1 occasions.
“Werther was ranked joint-third in the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings after his AP QEII Cup win,” he said. “That was perhaps the best ever edition of the QEII, with world class runners from Japan, Ireland and Australia, and so it was satisfying to see Hong Kong secure a 1-2-3 with Military Attack and Blazing Speed filling the places. That reflects the depth of horses we have ranked in the international classifications.
“In terms of attracting quality horses from overseas, we had the strongest overseas runners for a long time, probably the strongest ever. That, in combination with the strength of our own horses will see a further international growth in the standing of our now open Group races,” continued Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges.
“For a Yasuda Kinen and Mile Championship winner like Maurice, Japan’s Horse of the Year, no less, to come to Hong Kong and win both the Hong Kong Mile and Champions Mile – it was a remarkable feat,” he noted.
“We also had the first Hong Kong success for global powerhouse Coolmore when Highland Reel won the Hong Kong Vase at our International Races in December. The Australian champion, Chautauqua, is the world’s top sprinter now and his heart-pounding last-to-first score in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize will be a lasting memory; and A Shin Hikari, voted our Most Admired Overseas Horse, followed his Hong Kong Cup win with a dominant performance in France and currently leads the world standings for the top-rated performance in 2016 so far.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges also lauded Hong Kong’s world class trainers and jockeys, notably John Size, who claimed an eighth Hong Kong champion trainer title and Joao Moreira, whose record-breaking feats claimed a second jockeys’ championship.
“It has been a tremendous year with much success and many congratulations are in order,” he said. “My sincere thanks to our team at the Jockey Club, to the Owners, trainers and jockeys, and to our loyal race fans who all combine to make our successes possible.”