Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Model

Eric Mitchell interviews Dr. Christopher Riggs, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s top veterinarian, about the on-track pharmacy system there. Despite differences in how horses are trained and stabled in Hong Kong vs. America, it’s an enlightening exchange, particularly re: specific questions that vets have raised in response to racetrack owner Frank Stronach’s proposed reforms.

Hong Kong Handle

In a column about a software glitch, an extraordinary figure:

We can’t wait for commingling to occur and not just because it will give Hong Kong’s finest taxi drivers the chance to dictate who starts favourite in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Golden Slipper. The weight of Hong Kong money will leave punters in betting shops around the world scratching their heads and redefine the term market mover. Just for perspective, the accidental HK$30 million was a lot in any language (US$3.8 million) and enough to buy a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl. But it was also less than 2.5 per cent of the total turnover at Sha Tin yesterday, which reached a solid HK$1.3 billion …

Or about $171 million in American dollars.

For a little perspective: Total handle on the 2012 Kentucky Derby was $133 million, total two-day handle on the 2012 Breeders’ Cup $144 million.

7/11/13 Addendum: Hong Kong handle rises 9%, hits a record high of $93.8 billion ($12.1 billion) in its most recent season, outhandling the US.

Plans for Goldikova

Trainer Freddie Head, at Meydan for Dubai World Cup day, outlined a likely campaign for the 6-year-old champion mare:

“We will try and run in the same races as last year, starting off in the Prix d’Ispahan and then the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.

“One of the big plans is the Jacques Le Marois again and the Breeders’ Cup.

“If she wins the Breeders’ Cup she could go for the Hong Kong Mile as she will not run next year.”

It’s going to be quite a valedictory world tour.

Odds and Ends

Hong Kong is losing out to offshore bookies. “Engelbrecht estimates annual revenue for illegal bookmakers from Hong Kong horse races is equivalent to between one-third and 100 percent of the Jockey Club’s receipts.”

With ESPN’s exit, NBC is poised to pick up the Belmont Stakes.

Sounds as though Bill Mott should look for a new rider for To Honor and Serve: “I would be pretty surprised if Johnny would not be riding Uncle Mo.”

Bob Baffert says he’ll wait until the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes on March 12 to start Jaycito. “I don’t want to run him short.”

What the Life at Ten debacle could mean for the NTRA Safety Alliance.

Andrew Beyer sees potential in new microbets, although he’s not wild about the lottery-like Gulfstream Rainbow Six. “It is, in my view, a sucker bet.” Is the new Pimlico Slider less of one, with its four-race sequence, 50-cent minimum, 18% takeout, and a “staggering” number of combinations?

The Flying Fairy

She’s not the biggest filly in the world … but she’s got the biggest heart in the world,” the Guardian quotes trainer Ed Dunlop saying of Snow Fairy after the 3-year-old filly won the Hong Kong Cup on Sunday by a neck with a startling display of late speed. The Telegraph estimates just how fast she was:

The split times for the Hong Kong Cup make astonishing reading. The time for the leading horse is taken every two furlongs of the 10 furlong race, and they highlight the amazing power of Snow Fairy’s stunning final flourish. The times for yesterday’s race were : 25.98s – 25.19s – 25.38s – 23.48s and 22.93s. Considering that she was a good eight lengths behind the leader at the two furlong marker, Snow Fairy must have covered the final two furlongs in around 21 seconds.

I get a stellar :21.8 timing her run from the replay:

Check out Hong Kong’s awesome “Race Running Position Photos,” which shows the filly second to last coming into the stretch (via Equidaily).

Snow Fairy is a name to know for 2011. Dunlop confirmed the globetrotting filly, who won four G1s this year in four different countries, will stay in training as a 4-year-old and could start in the Dubai World Cup.

Wednesday Notes

NYC OTB closed at midnight last night after the New York state senate failed to pass a bill that would have allowed the company to continue operations. That means no more Channel 71 for racing fans watching at home. Much more seriously, it means more than 800 people out of work, an as-yet-unknown amount of lost wagering dollars, and more than $600 million in added state debt. The situation really couldn’t have been handled any worse. “As bad as OTB was, this was not the time to kill it,” observes Bill Finley. It certainly wasn’t the right way to kill it. But, is this the end? “I’m not ready to write the epitaph quite yet,” writes Alan Mann in his analysis of what happened yesterday. I suspect he’s right. The impact of the shutdown will be felt immediately, giving the state and industry plenty of incentives to revive New York City off-track betting, and maybe even in a form that benefits the game.

Churchill Downs CEO Robert Evans isn’t feeling the gloom. In his keynote address at the UA-RTIP Symposium on Tuesday, Evans found reasons for optimism among horse racing’s challenges, including this stat:

Evans said that racing’s customers still respond to quality, and that if the downsized industry keeps more of the quality product and reduces the poor end that the industry should thrive. To illustrate that point, Evans noted that handle on the top 25 races actually increased 18% in 2009 versus 2003, even as total handle during that period declined 19%.

Interesting. If you think you know the 25 big-event races Evans was referring to, Ed DeRosa has a contest for you. The TDN has Evans’ presentation, which includes his outline for a potential viable business model (PDF).

Dirt racing fans aren’t alone in loathing synthetic surfaces. Turf racing fans also hate synths, and for reasons that are familiar. Alan Aitken writes of the Hong Kong all-weather surface, “a purulent sore on the otherwise peach-like complexion of racing,” on Saturday: “Despite the course running fast, leaders staggered home in very slow sectionals but still held on as if by magic.” Everyone hates it when pace doesn’t play as expected.