China Horse Racing: HKJC’s Conghua Training Centre
A momentous new era in Hong Kong racing began with the arrival of the first in-training horses at Conghua Training Centre (CTC) on the Chinese Mainland, marking the integration of CTC into the Hong Kong training system.
The shipment of 21 horses – seven each from the Dennis Yip, Me Tsui and Chris So stables arrived at the Conghua Training Centre on Thursday morning, marking the commencement of dual-site operations for Hong Kong’s active horse population.
The next convoy of in-training horses is due to depart Sha Tin on Monday (16 July), carrying 14 horses trained by John Size and six horses from the Paul O’Sullivan yard. By mid-August, almost 140 horses – including 25 from the stable of Size, who is set to clinch his 10th championship on Sunday – will call CTC home. In addition to the five stables represented in the first two shipments, horses trained by Danny Shum, Caspar Fownes, Tony Cruz and John Moore will be transported to Conghua.
Today’s arrivals came after 35 retired horses belonging to the Club’s Racing Development Board (RDB) stable successfully shipped to CTC in two batches in mid-June.
Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “The beginning of dual-site operations for Hong Kong’s active horse population is a significant achievement. Today is a historic moment for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The Equine Disease Free Zone means that horses are afforded the same health status, whether trained at Sha Tin or CTC, so the horses that have arrived today are able to return to Hong Kong to race at any time.
“Today is the culmination of many years of work by many different people, both in Hong Kong and on the Chinese Mainland. It is one of the most significant and complex racing projects anywhere in the world and demonstrates the Club’s unwavering commitment to the continuing excellence of Hong Kong racing.”
“The horses that have arrived at CTC today are the first in-training horses to take advantage of this world-class establishment. They will be trained out of state-of-the-art stables with access to some of the finest training facilities in the world, including the first uphill gallop available to Hong Kong’s horse population.”
Trainer Chris So had seven horses on today’s shipment, including G3-placed sprinter Fabulous One. He said: “I am excited to embrace the CTC concept, especially given the Club has invested a lot of expertise and resources into the project. I believe it will be a good addition to our training systems – our older horses will benefit from a freshen-up and a change of environment, while the younger horses will settle into the Hong Kong environment quicker in a quieter, more relaxed space like CTC.
“Fabulous One is a good example. He has already had the experience of travelling to Dubai, so the trip up to CTC should be easy for him. We hope that he will be a trailblazer, in that we will give him some time up here during the summer but we hope to bring him back for the first meeting of next season to run in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup.”
Conghua Training Centre will officially open on 28 August with a special ceremony.
Jockeys Whyte, Leung give tick of approval to Conghua tracks
Leading jockeys Douglas Whyte and Derek Leung offered a glowing appraisal of the tracks and facilities at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new Conghua Training Centre (CTC) on the Chinese Mainland after riding in a number of gallops at the site Friday, 13 July.
Following yesterday’s arrival of the first 21 in-training horses at the Conghua site, Whyte and Leung partnered retired horses from the Racing Development Board (RDB) stable in fast work on the large all-weather track, the turf course and the turf uphill gallop at CTC. Both grass tracks had never been galloped on before today.
Whyte, a 13-time Champion Jockey, said: “You couldn’t fault the tracks, they felt perfect. If anything, the turf track itself rides better than Sha Tin so that’s a huge positive. You’ve got a beautiful bend that is longer than you think. I was expecting a Sha Tin-like bend where you take the corner and then suddenly you are at the next one, but this one just keeps turning and turning – it’s a longer, gentler, kinder turn. It’s a beautiful straight, too – the uphill towards the finish post seems to be a slight incline, unlike Sha Tin where it runs downhill and then flattens. It reminds me of a track like Hanshin in some ways.
“The dirt track was beautiful too, it felt nice and there was a bit of give in it. It’s just a lovely surface at the moment for training a horse, as they all are really.”
Leung, who is on track to win his second consecutive Tony Cruz Award for leading home-grown rider, said: “This morning, we first galloped on the all-weather. It is very good, it’s similar to Sha Tin but a little bit softer and the horse felt really comfortable on it. Then we tested the two turf surfaces, and it was an honour to be one of the first jockeys to ride on those tracks.
“The turf surface itself was terrific. Sha Tin can be quite firm, but there’s a bit more give underfoot here, yet there wasn’t any real kickback at all. It’s a great training track and I think the horse really loved the surface. The track’s pretty flat, there was a little bit of a rise but we didn’t feel it too much, and the turn, it was very smooth and a very long turn, longer than Sha Tin. It seemed like we just kept turning, turning, turning, I think that’s of great benefit to the horses and it is just a beautiful track, horses will love this track.
“I think the horses are going to enjoy the uphill gallop. It’s something unusual for most of them and the walk up and the walk back is something so different to what they usually do. It’s quite peaceful, the surroundings around the uphill gallop are stunning, and so I think it will actually be relaxing for the horses as well as a different test for them.”
Both Whyte and Leung were complimentary about the CTC site as a training facility and were in awe of the picturesque surroundings, with the centre surrounded by mountains.
Whyte said: “It’s as close as you’ll get to the Japanese facilities when you are riding work, with the mountains, the beauty, the scenery and the quietness. I think it is a place for a horse mentally to just relax and enjoy himself. Once you have galloped, there are nice long walks back to the stables and there are sand surfaces everywhere. I can’t see a horse not coming here and doing well.”
Leung added: “It’s big and it’s beautiful. Look at the view around us! That is quite special in itself and I myself feel relaxed just being here. It’s quieter and more relaxed than Sha Tin. I think the horses will be refreshed and I think they are going to enjoy being here.”
Mr. William A. Nader, the Club’s Director of Racing Business and Operations, said: “We knew the tracks were world class, having been constructed, developed and maintained by an expert team headed by John Ridley and Jackson Wong. For us, though, it is great to receive such high praise from two of our top jockeys and that they share our view of the tracks as well as the entire training environment.
“This is a facility which will serve our racehorses in the decades to come with a stronger and more sustainable future for Hong Kong racing.”
The next batch of in-training horses will arrive at Conghua on Monday (16 July), with almost 140 horses expected to be based at CTC when the site officially opens with a special ceremony on 28 August.