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Horse Power

Thoroughbred racing reigns supreme in Hong Kong, a city that worships the sport both on and off the track
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Sopranos, Mar/Apr 2007

(continued from page 3)

This is part of a broader plan that is designed to bring in younger fans who lack the financial wherewithal to own individual horses. Additionally, Engelbrecht-Bresges is working toward creating software that will ease the handicapping curve for neophytes and increase the dynamism of racing for everyone else. And the recent opening of Adrenaline, a trackside nightclub (complete with cool music, energy drink cocktails and an outdoor area that overlooks the turf), is clearly a grab at younger horseplayers. But Engelbrecht-Bresges's most ambitious hope of all is to attract the international market.

Right now the betting pool in Hong Kong is closed to outsiders. Engelbrecht-Bresges wants to change that. "At some point China will hopefully be a great market, but for the nearer future I see us branching out into other countries," he says. "Each government would get a fee, each operator would get a fee and we would get a fee. Plus, our pools would grow tremendously."

Closer to home, there is talk of a rebate system, which would refund percentages of losses to the biggest players (in order to compete against illegal bookies who've already instituted such programs), and Engelbrecht-Bresges hopes that one day minors will be allowed to attend races (without being permitted to bet). Looking toward the future and considering loads of competition for the attention of young people, he believes that this could be the Jockey Club's most important marketing gambit. "You need to create an affinity for racing," he says, emphasizing that it's all about the love of a sport rather than its gambling component. "And nothing does it like hearing the sound of live animals running down the track." He hesitates for a beat, as if summoning those thundering hooves into his head, before adding, "It gives you an attachment in a way that gambling machines cannot compete with."

Michael Kaplan is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.

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