Hong Kong Jockey Club poised to return to Australian yearling sale scene
Club set to attend Inglis Easter as standoff over quarantine restrictions dies
Representatives of the Hong Kong Jockey Club are set to attend next month’s Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale four months after making the dramatic decision to not participate in the 2018 auctions, but it remains unclear whether they will be buying horses.
The HKJC has been a notable absentee from the Australian yearling sales this year in the wake of the federal government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) imposing stringent new quarantine rules on horses travelling from the Asian racing centre to the country.
DAWR made changes to quarantine requirements due to the development of the Conghua Training Centre in mainland China enabling an increase in the number of horses in training for HKJC’s Sha Tin and Happy Valley race meetings.
The HKJC did not attend the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale in January, the Inglis Classic or Melbourne Premier Yearling Sales in February and March but they did buy at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale in January, purchasing seven yearlings for NZ$2,060,000 at an average of NZ$294,286.
Inglis managing director Mark Webster confirmed on Tuesday the HKJC would be attending the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale at Riverside Stables but cautioned vendors that it was not a certainty that they would be active on the buying bench.
Earlier this week, HKJC executive director of racing Andrew Harding said it 'makes sense' to re-enter the Australian yearling market starting next month in an interview in the South China Morning Post.
But while ANZ Bloodstock News was on Tuesday also able to ascertain HKJC's attendance at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, they stopped short of committing to buying yearlings.
Webster said high-level talks had taken place between HKJC chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges and senior Australian government officials including Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in a bid to resolve the quarantine issues.
Webster and Aushorse officials have also helped facilitate an outcome that will see the HKJC back attending Australian yearling sales.
"We have been in dialogue with the HKJC as they needed to better understand what the response from the Australian government was going to be in relation to biosecurity at their new training facility on the Chinese mainland," Webster told ANZ Bloodstock News.
"I got involved in the process early on by talking to people high up at the Department of Agriculture and I also invited the newly appointed Agriculture Minister Mr David Littleproud to attend the Classic Yearling Sale.
"David did come and I took him around, showed him what our industry is all about and the benefits it creates for tourism and the importance of the export market of horses to areas like Hong Kong."
Webster said Littleproud had taken on board the importance of the Hong Kong market to the Australian industry, with the minister promising to intervene.
"We discussed the issue and (Littleproud) indicated he would call the chief executive of the HKJC and talk to him," he said. "Part of the frustration for the HKJC is the lack of certainty and communication and wanted to know the matter was being addressed at the highest levels and to my knowledge David did follow up with Winfried."
Aushorse and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia chief executive Tom Reilly said it appeared there was progress being made on the initial quarantine restrictions placed on horses travelling from Hong Kong to Australia.
Under the current laws introduced last year, horses in Hong Kong would have to spend 180 days in another country, such as New Zealand, before being allowed into Australia.
"We've been really involved with the Department of Agriculture and the minister, which at first was Barnaby Joyce and then David Littleproud before Christmas, and they've taken an active role in the situation," O’Reilly told Racing.com on Tuesday night.
"(They) understand the complexities and ties that are there between Australia and Hong Kong which are really significant for our industry."
Webster said the HKJC had featured on the top ten buyers statistics at most major Australasian sales in recent years and had a significant impact on the end results achieved at a sale.
"The HKJC are usually in the top ten buyers at any sales they go to, so it is always good to have them in attendance and we look forward to them coming," he said.
He said international buyers were expected to be prominent at the 2018 Easter Yearling Sale.
"A lot of the regular buyers from international markets have indicated they are attending, so we are not expecting a flurry of new buyers at the sale," he said.
"The Australian dollar is still well placed for international investors. Australian thoroughbreds are still performing very well at an international level in terms of the rankings."
The decision by the HKJC also comes as Godolphin this year re-entered the Australian yearling market, buying at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, Inglis Classic and Melbourne Premier and has already stated its intention to be active at next month’s sale.
Another notable absentee this year has been Angus Gold of Shadwell Stud, with his attendance at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale yet to be confirmed.
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