European trainers likely to be in demand next season
British trainers looking for a fresh challenge overseas could be advised to brush up on their knowledge of Hong Kong’s racing culture.
Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has told the Racing Post that when the time comes to top up the trainers’ roster next season, applicants from the northern hemisphere, and particularly Europe, will be given preference.
Two Europeans, Sean Woods and Andreas Schutz, left Hong Kong at the end of last season, after failing to fulfil the stringent performance criteria of saddling 15 winners and meeting a prize-money element over a three-year period. Neither has been replaced.
However, Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “We expect to appoint the replacements next season, and will probably start with one European trainer and one local. Over time, though, we would probably like to add two European trainers to the ranks.”
Explaining why the HKJC’s sights are likely to be set on the west, rather than Australasia, Engelbrecht-Bresges added: “We have some very good Australian trainers but I’m very keen that we are a global product, not one focused all the time on the southern hemisphere. It’s about balance, which makes Hong Kong strong.
“Australian racing is tremendous, and sometimes underrated in Europe, but personally I think Hong Kong has to be global and not concentrate only on one hemisphere.”
Hong Kong’s performance criteria for trainers was introduced in 2001 and further refined when the number of fixtures went up from 78 to 83 in the 2013-14 season. Woods and Schutz are the first trainers to have their applications rejected since David Hill, who subsequently went to train in Singapore, in 2005.
The HKJC may also look to invite more European jockeys to take up short-term contracts, such as that being undertaken by Oisin Murphy, as simulcasting of local races overseas grows.
Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “If you have key figures who are anchors, like Ryan Moore over the weekend, it will help people to follow jockeys and there will be increased interest in the overall product. That’s why we will try to entice more European jockeys to come to Hong Kong, at least for a certain period of time, and why we are looking for a new European trainer.”