The Asian Racing Conference has returned to South Africa for the first time in more than two decades, and following opening ceremonies on Tuesday evening panels are set to take place Feb. 19 through 21 in Cape Town.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club's Executive Director of Racing Andrew Harding, also secretary-general of the Asian Racing Federation, gave the opening address on behalf of HKJC Chief Executive Officer and ARF Chairman Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, who has remained in Hong Kong to manage the Club's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Winfried has asked me to pass on his sincere apologies, but he hopes you will understand that the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China means he must be in Hong Kong,” Harding said. “In addition to the welfare of the Club's staff of over 20,000 people, he is needed to direct the Club's efforts to support the Hong Kong community in this extremely challenging period. These challenges reach from securing sufficient masks for our staff and hospitals in an environment of a global supply shortage, ongoing discussions with Government to agree which mitigating measures the Club has to introduce to prevent the spread of the virus–and which enables us to continue racing– while working on Charity and Community Programmes via the Jockey Club's Emergency Relief Funds, providing NGOs with resources to address the needs of the homebound elderly, the disabled and of ethnic minorities.
“I know for a fact that this was a very difficult decision for Winfried, but he felt that he must be with the Club's staff and the Hong Kong community at this testing time.”
The theme of the 38th Asian Racing Conference is Unlocking Potential, something Harding says resonates with its host site.
“The last time South Africa hosted the ARC was 1997, just three years after the end of apartheid,” he said. “As we gather together here today, some 23 years later, I think we are all very mindful–and deeply respectful of–the great strides South Africa has made. This includes its racing, where South African trainers and jockeys are already highly successful exports. This is soon to be followed, I don't doubt, by South African horses competing and winning on the world stage.
“This is what makes the theme of this conference–Unlocking Potential–so resonant. For as South Africa reminds us, our sport has huge potential if only we can confront the challenges and grasp the opportunities before us.”
The Asian Racing Conference will comprise 11 sessions spread over three days.