The emphasis was on the strategic marketing and corporate alliances which underpin the meetings in focus, including: the Hong Kong International Races; British Champions Day; the Breeders’ Cup in America; the Singapore Gold Cup; the Dubai World Cup; and Japan’s Arima Kinen.
A newcomer to that list is the very recently inaugurated ‘The Championships’ in Sydney, which Michael Crismale, the Chairman of the Australian Turf Club, explained was designed to re-invigorate Sydney’s autumn racing carnival - and had succeeded with Government support and massive prize money of A$20 million.
Irish Champions Weekend is a Big Event which has yet to take place. Horse Racing Ireland Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, was confident that the two day race meeting, held on two different racecourses in mid-September would be a success, creating a major showcase for Flat racing in Ireland. "We're famous for our breeding but we lacked a showpiece race meeting at the end of our season. We've pulled together the best from existing meetings for one special weekend of racing," Mr Kavanagh said.
Rod Street, the Chief Executive of British Champions Series Limited and Great British Racing, talked of the industry cooperation and the sponsorship support which has ensured the success of British Champions Day. This new major racing event, staged at Ascot Racecourse on the second Saturday in October, took place for the first time in 2011. “The focus is on world class racing and it’s all about building around that,” commented Mr Street.
Crucially, a commercial partner for the entire series leading up to British Champions Day was secured, with QIPCO signing an initial two-year deal, later extended to seven years. This high-level investment was essential to the business model and vindicated packaging British Racing’s premium assets together.
Craig Fravel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Breeders’ Cup Limited, provided some entertaining history to the Breeders’ Cup. He explained to delegates: “In 1984, the first Breeders’ Cup was held at Hollywood Park, whose owner Marje Everett put up US$40 million to build the Cary Grant Pavilion to help handle the anticipated crowds, with the promise of Hollywood stars attending. Now the Breeders’ Cup has proven itself over 30 years and the concept has been copied elsewhere. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, Mr William A. Nader, highlighted the evolution of the Hong Kong International Races, which has been based upon the desire to be world class in all aspects of the meeting and its build-up.
“Hong Kong International day is a great branding exercise showcasing Hong Kong and our racing. State of the art quarantine facilities, outstanding hospitality for international owners, trainers and jockeys and a comprehensive marketing and media strategy have all been keys in the growth and success of this meeting,” Mr Nader said.
Martin Talty, Head of International Racing at the Dubai Racing Club, outlined the international quality of the Dubai World Cup meeting which in 2014 attracted approximately 200 horses from 15 countries. "Our event goes beyond wagering. Our focus is on creating a great international sporting event," he said.
The Singapore Turf Club was represented by Simon Leong, Vice President of Corporate Services, who explained that the success of the Singapore Gold Cup has been achieved, at least in part, due to a strong charitable element.
Mr Leong said: “Today, the Gold Cup is the crown jewel of Singapore Group One races and the richest race in Singapore with a purse of S$1.35 million. It has evolved into a key annual event for the Singapore Turf Club, with its support of various charities, which has seen S$21 million distributed to 200 beneficiaries. It has provided an avenue to promote our racing in the light of strict regulations on the advertising and promoting of horse racing in Singapore.”
Kaoru Obata, a Director of the Japan Racing Association and currently in charge of International Affairs, focused on the wider marketing strategy which has boosted the Arima Kinen. He explained: “There are special feature shows and sports news programmes on television, and we try to showcase the event by having exposure more than ever before on popular, top-rated TV shows. We also air more TV commercials plus advertisements in major newspapers, and in many other ways. As a result, about 7 million people watch the Arima Kinen on TV.”
All in all, this session had highlighted eight events, eight different approaches and eight chances to elevate horseracing to the top of the sporting calendar, giving delegates from around the world plenty of food for thought.