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Excellent prospects in China for New Zealand’s horse racing industry

22 April 2008

From Diane Keenan who is with the Mayor's delegation in China

China will be tapping into Canterbury’s horse racing industry for horses and expertise when the sport is launched in Wuhan, Christchurch’s Friendship City in China, next year.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and his delegation yesterday visited the Orient Lucky Horse Racing Club, the organisation which is pioneering horse racing in China. Following the signing of the Friendship City relationship between Christchurch and Wuhan in 2006, the Canterbury Jockey Club has developed strong business links with the Wuhan Club. It is the only outside club to have such a relationship.

Canterbury Development Corporation’s Eugene Feng has been working alongside New Zealand horse racing consultant Murray Acklin to link the potentially multi-billion dollar fledgling Chinese industry with Christchurch.

When the delegation visited, the Wuhan complex was a hive of activity with two large grandstands under construction either side of the main grandstand. The racecourse already boasts a full-sized track and stables for the local horses the club is trialling at present.  However the club is developing for thoroughbred racing and is looking to not only buy horses from New Zealand in future, but also to engage expertise in every aspect of the industry.

Orient Lucky Horse chairman Jackie Wu said that during visits to New Zealand over the past two years, he and his team had visited horse studs.

“We are very aware of the excellent quality of New Zealand horses and the international standing that your industry has in the world. We will be buying horses from you as we know you breed horses that can win the Melbourne Cup,” he told the delegation.

“China is developing and I am confident that there are a number of people in this country who, when they have the opportunity, will want to own and race a horse.”

The new industry is strongly supported by the local Wuhan Government. Wuhan is the only Chinese City to be granted a permit for horse racing and gambling for a two-year trial beginning next year. Gambling on horses is currently illegal in China.

“The relationship between Wuhan and Christchurch is already strong and I can see the cooperation we have with your city will only increase,” Mr Wu said.

Mr Parker said the Free Trade Agreement signed between China and New Zealand in Beijing earlier this month had increased the potential for cooperation even further.

“A very enterprising group of people in Christchurch and Wuhan, who are already ahead of the game, are perfectly poised to make this new horse racing industry happen in China. Given that the industry is starting from scratch here, the opportunity for us to sell our horses and expertise to Wuhan is huge. One of their dreams is that one day they can emulate New Zealand with a horse from China winning the Melbourne Cup. They know that they can source such a horse from our country.”

In the last two years Wuhan Jockey Club officials have attended the New Zealand Cup and Show Week carnival in Christchurch while a delegation of trainers and jockeys from Riccarton visited Wuhan two years ago.


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