Irish Thoroughbred Mare and Foal. Image by Alicia Frese (c) Flint Gallery.

Ireland partners with China to develop Thoroughbred horse racing

Irish Thoroughbred Mare and Foal. Image by Alicia Frese (c) Flint Gallery.
Under a deal struck by Coolmore in Ireland to develop horse racing in China, a stud farm will be set up stocked with over 100 thoroughbred breeding mares sourced in Ireland. Stallions will also be sent out. Thoroughbred Mare and Foal by Alicia Frese (c) Flint Gallery.

The new rich of China like horses and are very enthusiastic about developing Thoroughbred horse racing in their country.

While some have spent millions acquiring high class Thoroughbreds from Japan, a recent deal was struck between China and Ireland to establish a 2 billion dollar national equine center in Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city.

The Independent (Ireland) reports in April of this year:

Hundreds of Irish horses are set to race regularly in China after bloodstock giant Coolmore announced a ground-breaking deal.

Top Irish stud farm Coolmore — owned by racing tycoon John Magnier and based in Fethard, Co Tipperary — will help China set up a similar operation.

The planned equine centre will be the first of its kind in the country.

It is due to open for business next year.

The contract is worth more than €38.5m to Ireland over three years.

Under the deal, a stud farm will be set up stocked with over 100 thoroughbred breeding mares sourced in Ireland. Stallions will also be sent out.

Between 600 and 800 racehorses — many of them bought in Ireland — will also be sourced to kickstart a racing season in the country.

The Irish Times reports, “The Tianjin centre will feature 4,000 horse stalls, a horse clinic, 150 trainers’ offices, five training tracks and two international standard racetracks.”

Cheering crowds flock to horse racing in Hong Kong. AP image.
Cheering crowds flock to horse racing in Hong Kong. AP image.

Gambling on horse races is banned in China, but that ban could be lifted in the future. Hong Kong is the only venue on Chinese soil where betting on horses is legal.

There is a restricted form of gambling at places like Wuhan. Rather than a tote system or on-course betting, punters can earn shopping vouchers or lottery tickets in raffles between races.

While the idea of horse racing in China may thrill some, it send shivers up the spines of equine lovers regarding the welfare of the horses.

Hong Kong racing has one of the best, if not the best, set of governing policies in the world of horse racing, and they are highly advantageous to the racehorse.

The Business of Racing website reports:

When it comes to drug use, Hong Kong is one of the strictest racing jurisdictions in the world. No medications are allowed. Period. And some drugs — Lasix, for example — can’t even be used in training.

At the same time, Hong Kong is among the most transparent jurisdictions regarding the physical condition of horses entered in races. The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s web site has a link to complete veterinary information for every horse entered in every race, and in far more detail than is available to US bettors.

How do they accomplish this?

Hong Kong, of course, has many inherent advantages over the US when it comes to regulating drugs. As I mentioned in the first of these posts, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is racing’s sole regulator, enforcer, operator, and virtually sole employer. All the vets work for the Jockey Club, as do all the grooms. No trainers with private vets to make everyone suspicious. That makes things a lot easier to police.

And I really like this strategy.

Another advantage Hong Kong has in being able to ensure clean racing is that it screens horses before they can be imported into the jurisdiction. Once a member of the Jockey Club wins the annual lottery giving him or her the right to import a horse, that owner has to secure the Jockey Club’s approval for the actual import. That screening process keeps out unsound horses and tends to insure a homogeneous, competitive supply of horses in the barns.

And how about this interesting idea?

A further advantage is that older horses have a guaranteed retirement option; they don’t have to be held together with drugs and tape while they slide down the claiming ladder. The Jockey Club requires each owner to post a HK$40,000 (US$5,000) deposit when the owner imports a horse. If the owner can arrange a confirmed retirement placing for the horse, the deposit is refunded. If not, the Jockey Club adds some of its own funds and itself arranges for retraining of the horse and finding a new career for it in China.

We are determined to be optimistic that Hong Kong Jockey Club policies will be followed throughout Chinese horse racing.

As to horse slaughter, do the racehorses in China’s future face that grisley fate? Sadly, yes. One welfare issue that haunts horse racing around the globe is slaughter. See “Racehorse slaughter knows no boundaries“.

4 thoughts on “Ireland partners with China to develop Thoroughbred horse racing”

  1. This is a one way ticket to slaughter. The chinese eat anything alive and this way the rich chinese won’t have to keep a horse that is not a winner. I agree with Barbara to stop breeding horses that cannot be afforded.


  2. With Spain sending 5000 horses to slaughter every week because of it’s economy nobody should be breeding race horses or any other breed. I don’t trust China, that country eats dogs and cat’s and they also raise horses just like cattle for slaughter. What’s to stop any of these horses being done the same way? To me I think the welfare of horses just got a little more bleak.


  3. I vote neigh for the obvious reason but remain optimistic until the ugly truth rises to the surface.

    On the bright side what with the state of affairs in Ireland, and the grisly fate of the race horse there, at least some will be spared for the interim.


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