China‘s growing interest in Australia’s thoroughbred horse racing sector bodes well for the local industry, a breeding expert says.
About half of all thoroughbred horses born in Australia are bred in the Hunter Valley, a multi-million-dollar business that attracts punters from all over the world.
Veteran bloodstock breeding analyst Brian Russell said while Ireland and the United Arab Emirates were traditionally key players in Australia’s horse industry, China’s interest was growing.
“There’s been a dramatic change in the new century — huge books of mares, more concentrated stallion strength, huge investment in the Hunter Valley,” he said.
“You’ve got Coolmore and Darley, two of the biggest studs in Australia and two of the biggest horse breeding empires in the world.
“China is a sleeping giant as far as horse breeding and racing.
“There’s two or three major studs in Australia now owned by Hong Kong Chinese.”
One of those studs, Aquis Australia — owned by the Hong Kong-based Fung family — recently set up shop in the Hunter Valley.
CEO Shane McGrath said this was their first year branching out into the Hunter Valley, after starting out with properties in Queensland.
“With the merge with Emirates Park, it’s an opportunity to grow out our race horses to an optimum level,” he said.
“Obviously our principals are based in Hong Kong, so they see everything from a global level. It’s not just what’s happening in your backyard.
“It’s inevitable that it’s going to be nerve-wracking coming into the Hunter and taking on the big boys.”
China’s investments ‘have flow on effect’
Adam White, bloodstock manager at Vinery Stud in the Segenhoe Valley, said China’s emerging interest boded well for the local industry.
“The last probably half a dozen years we’ve seen a lot of Chinese groups invest in our industry, which is fantastic,” he said.
“They’re not only racing horses here but they’re now breeding horses here.
“That’s put a lot of money into the industry here and into local businesses. It’s all overflow effects.”
And despite restrictions on gambling, China’s own horse racing industry has been developing in its own right.
“The Chinese interest is certainly in the racing. They’re also exporting horses from here to China to race,” Mr White said.
“And their racing over there in their own country has really geared up the last two or three years, certainly. They’ve built some lovely racetracks over there.
“They race for the prestige of racing horses amongst their mates, and I think that’s a great way to start the industry over there as well.”
Racing authorities around the world have banned artificial insemination, meaning conception of a foal must happen the old-fashioned way.
Mr White said that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The average is somewhere around $30,000,” he said.
“You’ve got your leading stallions like Fast Net Rock and Redoutes and obviously Snitzel’s $170,000 plus GST this year.
“Our leading stallion here at Vinery is More Than Ready and he stands for $60,000 plus GST.”
By Cecilia Connell