As a well-respected industry veteran of several decades coming off an immensely successful run as an executive with the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Bill Nader could likely write his own ticket for most jobs in the industry. It was recently announced that after 15 years in Hong Kong, Nader would be coming home to America and become the new president and CEO of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. Tuesday, Nader joined the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland as the Green Group Guest of the Week to talk about why he left Hong Kong for the TOC, his analysis of the current state of California racing, what lessons can be taken for America from the growth of Hong Kong racing and more.
“I was coming back anyway and had made the decision to leave at some point this year,” Nader said of returning home. “We've been pretty much locked down [in Hong Kong] for the last three years, so I haven't been back [to America] for three years. My family used to come visit from time to time, but they haven't been able to do that. So I was ready to wrap it up and head home. Then this opportunity presented itself and through the process of getting to know the board at the TOC, I became very comfortable with their commitment and dedication. I'm certainly not a California guy, but I'm very familiar with the rich history of racing in California. Even now with a horse like Flightline who may be the world number one when the rankings come out next month, and you think of horses like Arrogate, Zenyatta, California Chrome, Best Pal, going all the way back to Seabiscuit, it's a rich, rich, rich history. You have some of the world's most beautiful racetracks, great weather, so there's so much to build on there. I'm excited for the opportunity.”
Nader was later asked what has made Hong Kong racing so successful under his tenure, during which annual handle more than doubled from HK$60 billion to HK$133 billion, and whether the formula behind that success can be translated to American racing.
“I think it comes down to quality control, number one,” he said. “The two segments you really want to make sure you take care of are horse owners and horseplayers. If you get those two things right, then the foundation is solid. We've made tremendous investments in increasing purse money and handle. When you look at what makes racing attractive to the horseplayer, it's good field sizes, quality racing, great liquidity, and integrity. On integrity, have our own racing lab, one of the world's best racing labs, at Sha Tin. Our racing stewards are very good and vigilant in protecting not only the integrity of the sport but the integrity of the wager. There's also vertical integration here within the Hong Kong Jockey Club framework, where everything is under our roof. So we're not only the operator, we're the regulator, we do our own food and beverage, we do own our show, we do our own broadcasting. The people who work here in the key positions are among the best in the world. So everything structurally is in a great spot.”
Elsewhere on the show, which is also sponsored by Coolmore, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, XBTV, West Point Thoroughbreds and Legacy Bloodstock, the writers discussed what to do about a redundant national stakes schedule, analyzed NYRA's suspension of Bob Baffert and previewed a busy holiday weekend of racing. Click here to watch the show; click here for the audio-only version or find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.