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UK to export horses for China courses

Publication Date : 20-04-2014


Some of the finest racehorses in Britain will soon be exported to China thanks to an agreement by the two governments this month.

Under the agreement, Britain will be allowed to export thoroughbreds and sports horses to China. France and Ireland had earlier signed similar agreements with China.

Horse exports to China could soon be worth 10 million pounds (US$17 million) a year to the British economy, the British government says.

Racehorse owners and associations in Britain have increasingly been eyeing the Chinese market, having witnessed growing demand in recent years.

In February last year, a delegation led by Paul Bittar, chief executive officer of the British Horseracing Authority, visited China to initiate discussions with the country's horseracing industry.

Other organisations represented in the delegation included Great British Racing International, Ascot Racecourse, the Racecourse Association and The Jockey Club.

The delegation visited Shanghai, Wuhan, Beijing and Tianjin and met officials and industry figures from a range of organisations including the Shanghai Race Club, China Equestrian Association and the China Horse Industry Association.

A delegation from China's Ministry of Import Controls recently visited Britain to assess the possibility of establishing a good importing process for racehorses.

The Members visited a number of facilities including the Newmarket Equine Hospital, the Animal Health Trust and The National Stud to assess the health and condition of racehorses for potential import.

Following a week-long investigation, the export agreement was signed between Zhi Shuping, China's Minister for Import Controls, and Owen Paterson, Britain's Environment Secretary, in Newmarket, a market town about 100 kilometres north of London.

"Riding, breeding and training horses is increasingly popular in China, so this deal will ensure that we can make the most of the UK's world-famous thoroughbreds in boosting our burgeoning equine industry," Zhi says.

Carter Carnegie, international executive of the association Great British Racing International, says: "The export of horses will become a major benefit to the British racing industry as China's interest in racing continues to grow.

"It is fitting that both ministers could experience Newmarket, the birthplace of modern thoroughbred racing, which showcases the very best the sport has to offer."

Newmarket is also significant in the horseracing industry because it is the home of Frankel, a British thoroughbred that ended an unbeaten career by winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October 2012.

During their time at Newmarket, Zhi and Paterson saw Frankel, now retired and in stud, where it costs 125,000 pounds for him to service a mare.

Carnegie compares Frankel and British horseracing with watchmaking and Switzerland, the best at it in the world. Britain's racehorse breeds and the skills used in training racehorses have been passed down through history, he says.

The value of Britain's racehorse exports was 118 million pounds in 2012. Sales at Tattersalls, the bloodstock auctioneers, were worth 237 million pounds.

Carnegie predicts that sales of racehorses to China will take off soon. In recent years, Great British Racing International has been contacted by Chinese parties needing help with building racecourses and establishing horseracing systems, he says.

So having the export agreement signed is a first step to engaging in the growing Chinese horseracing market, he says, and, after Britain's racehorses start going to China, other help can follow.

Britain also has expertise in designing the governing structure for horseracing to ensure fair play and integrity, he says. Britain can also design and build racing venues, manage media coverage and design racing programs.

Professional horseracing first arrived in China with the establishment of early British expatriate communities in the middle 1800s. One legacy of this was The Shanghai Race Club, which remains a social racing club for wealthy Chinese racehorse owners competing in international races.


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