The 37th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) closed in Seoul, South Korea last night (Thursday, 17 May), with the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) Chairman Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges acclaiming an “incredibly productive” convocation.
He applauded the “exceptional” organisation of the conference host, the Korea Racing Authority (KRA), under the leadership of CEO Mr. Kim Nag Soon. The latter passed the ARC flag to South Africa, which will host the next ARC in Cape Town in 2020.
In the spirit of the conference theme to ‘Innovate, collaborate, transform,’ in what has been forwarded as the ‘Asian Century,’ Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said in his closing remarks that he was confident that the ARC had succeeded in achieving “a better understanding of our challenges and the opportunities we should seize if we will work together to innovate and transform.”
He added: “We must push forward, to continuously develop and improve the global industry, constructively sharing our successes amongst the racing fraternity.”
Almost 600 delegates participated in 12 plenary sessions over the three-day ARC, which followed a day of bureau meetings on Monday – among them the International Stewards’ Conference, the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses session, and the IFHA Executive Committee.
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges acknowledged that the conference topics had covered the breadth of the horseracing industry and that the dialogue had been “incredibly deep.”
He highlighted four key takeaways from this year’s gathering, notably the vision to create a global brand for horse racing, which, he said, is “necessary to widen our fan base and create an emotional connection to racing.” He noted that “wagering is the undeniable lifeblood of our sport, but it is just a product. In terms of developing our fan base, we need to provide an articulated offering, one which establishes an emotional connection for its participants, and especially with our horses.”
He also reaffirmed that integrity in horse racing is an “absolute must,” stating unequivocally: “There is no room for ambiguity. We have a zero tolerance for racing or training under the influence of doping agents.”
On that point, he continued: “Integrity is and must be a core value of our industry. It must be embraced by all of the sport’s participants, especially owners, trainers and jockeys. It is the key responsibility of regulators worldwide to ensure that systems, processes and capabilities are in place to mandate and ensure compliance.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges also emphasised the crucial importance of horse welfare and well-developed aftercare initiatives as being what he termed “the cornerstones of a healthy, modern racing industry.”
He continued: “Best practices in horse welfare are absolutely necessary for the sustainability of our industry. The Asian Racing Federation (ARF) is committed to promoting the further strengthening of the industry’s horse welfare programmes and aftercare initiatives.”
Lastly, he reminded attendees that the ARF is committed to working with law enforcement agencies to continue the fight against what he termed the “cancer” of illegal gambling entities.
“The work of the ARF Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce gave us a comprehensive understanding of the scale and complexity of the illegal markets, their connection to organised crime and the impact to integrity and the reputation of the sport,” he said.
In conclusion, he said: “The hospitality and the warmth of the Korean people, which you have shared with us this week, will be forever cherished. On behalf of the ARF Executive Committee and the ARF Members, thank you so much for your tireless efforts and tremendous organisation of this 37th Asian Racing Conference.”
Mr. Soon, in his remarks, said: “I feel confident that this conference is a significant milestone for Asian Racing’s development.
“Once more, we all agree that illegal betting is harming the healthy development of the whole of racing, no one disputes that. This is not a problem for a single country. All nations need to cooperate and respond together.”
He added: “Looking back, we have discussed many topics for the advance of racing. All of these would be the cornerstone of Asian Racing becoming the center of world racing.”