Jenny - Clean

DOUGLAS Whyte and Brett Prebble, the two stars of last season's epic battle for the Hong Kong jockeys' championship, were the main attractions at the road show yesterday that set the scene for the season opener at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Ricky Yiu, trainer of Horse of the Year Sacred Kingdom and Champion Apprentice Keith Yeung made up a foursome which had fans queuing in droves for the subsequent autograph signing.

Fans were thrilled to hear that the great Sacred Kingdom, for three years top rated or joint top rated sprinter in the world, is on perfect course for a return to the track after the bout of colic that might well have ended his life in March this year.

They were fascinated to listen to young gun Yeung of his hopes for a new season in which he will make the notoriously difficult transition from apprentice to fully-fledged jockey.

But the two senior riding rivals, Whyte and Prebble, were without doubt the focus of attention, and they let nobody down in their responses to questions about the renewal of their duel which begins again on Sunday.

Prebble denied he was downcast by his failure by just one winner to catch the perennial champion in 2009-10, preferring to dwell instead on the positive aspects of the attempted dethroning.

"It wasn't a disappointment. It was a personal best season for me. I was delighted to get 99 winners. It's not an easy task to get past around 70 or 80."

And in answer to the obvious one about whether he'll be going all out to shift the balance of power in 2010-11 he was just as emphatic: "It won't be for lack of trying" he insisted. "Douglas doesn't give up. He's a terrific jockey and a terrific fighter, but I'll be out to beat him."

Whyte, who described last season's victory as "the sweetest ever", was equally unbending after a working holiday in Japan that yielded him another couple of Group winners.

Asked if he was confident about retaining his title the South African gave a typically restrained answer: "I get asked that every year and I give the same answer. Not confident, but I'm going out there to do my best."

The pair cited Hotshot (Whyte) and Lucky Nine (Prebble) as the two horses most likely to kick start their new season at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Meanwhile Ricky Yiu's news about his world champion was entirely upbeat: "There's no doubt in my mind that Sacred Kingdom is himself again" said the trainer. "His first race will be the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy on 1 October. Then we'll be aiming for another win in the International Sprint and after that he may go overseas again, perhaps for the Singapore race he won in 2009."

Keith Yeung too was full of optimism. The champion apprentice described how "I have been training at boxing as well as gymnastics in order to improve my riding for the future."

The whole event was a great success, and there was no mistaking the expressions of enthusiasm on the faces of fans who swelled the limited space as they listened intently to the words of their heroes in rapt anticipation of the action to come.



MEANWHILE, the Hong Kong Jockey Club announced yesterday that its contribution to the public purse through tax and betting duty payments reached a record HK$13.62 billion in the 2009/10 financial year, while its donations to community and charitable projects through The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust also set a new record, totalling HK$1.52 billion.

The donations to charity represent a further 11.2% increase on the previous year's HK$1.37 billion, which itself took the Club's donations into a new realm after many years of averaging around HK$1 billion.  These major contributions underline the Club's core value to the community, built up over 125 years of service.

Speaking at the Club's 2010 Annual General Meeting, retiring Chairman Dr John C C Chan said the recovering economy and the addition of extra simulcasts had helped the Club's core horse racing business achieve a 5.9% increase in turnover to HK$71.65 billion and a 3.3% increase in the Club's share of gross margin to HK$3.23 billion.  Gross margin is the amount with which the Club is able to cover operational costs and charitable donations, after payment of dividends to customers and betting duties to Government.

"While these figures may sound very positive, they do not tell the full story," Dr Chan observed.  "In reality, the Club's share of gross margin on horse racing has shown no overall growth of significance since a package of betting duty reforms was introduced in 2006, while the Government's share has risen over the same period by some HK$730 million.

"In other words, while the reform package has been successful in its goal of luring back revenue from illegal operators, the benefits have not been shared equitably.  Yet over the same period, our operating costs have increased, especially through the cost of running more races.  This is an issue that needs to be addressed in the coming years through a comprehensive review of the existing taxation framework."

Dr Chan noted that the impact of the extra race days on this year's figures was limited as they fell in July, after the financial year-end on 30 June.  For the full racing season, turnover grew 13.0% to HK$75.50 billion.

On the football side, the Club's gross margin for 2009/10 reached HK$3.21 billion, with the same amount going to Government in the form of betting duty payments.  Although the World Cup boosted turnover in the final month of the year, most of the knockout stages fell in July, likewise after the financial year-end.  Total football turnover for the World Cup over its full duration was HK$4.44 billion.

The Mark Six lottery showed a marginal 0.8% fall over the year, producing Club commission of HK$383 million.  In addition to generating HK$1.59 billion in Lottery Duty for the Government, the Mark Six contributed a HK$956 million payment to the Lotteries Fund, which supports social welfare projects.

Overall, the Club's total turnover on racing, football and the Mark Six rose 7.1% to HK$116.93 billion while its share of gross margin grew 6.4% to HK$6.82 billion.

Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said that although the 2009/10 results were generally encouraging, the Club still faced many challenges.

"Sustaining revenue streams is becoming more and more challenging to us with the steady increase of gaming in the surrounding region, especially the new generation of integrated gaming resorts in Macau and Singapore and the growing number of internet gaming operations targeting our customers," he stressed.

"This challenge is exacerbated by Hong Kong's high taxation and very restrictive regulatory framework.  To remain sustainable and competitive, the Club needs to make substantial investments in its racecourse facilities and meet customers' ever-growing expectations."

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges noted that the amount of money lost by Hong Kong people to Macau casinos alone had more than doubled in the past four years from HK$9 billion in 2005/06 to HK$22 billion in 2009/10.

"To put this into perspective, this is larger than Hong Kong's total gross margin on racing, football and the Mark Six, counting both the Government's and the Club's shares," he said.  "This challenge will be further exacerbated when Macau casinos start general sports betting in 2011.

“This is not just about competition for the Club; it is about revenue being lost to Hong Kong's public purse and to the charitable and community projects that the Club's not-for-profit operations support," he emphasized.  "It is also about preserving and creating jobs for Hong Kong people."

It was important that the Government and legislators looked at the wider picture when considering gambling issues, Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said. Since the Club was authorized to offer off-course betting in 1973, its total charitable donations had exceeded HK$27 billion, and it had contributed a remarkable HK$261 billion to the public purse.

"If it were not for the Club's contributions to public funds, other revenue sources such as salaries tax would need to rise significantly.  To sustain these contributions to the community in the long term, we need to establish a new framework that can enable the Club to stay competitive, covering services, offerings, taxation and regulatory issues."

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges also noted that the Club had sustained employment for tens of thousands of people, often creating jobs at times and places where they were most needed.

"A good example is the 4,000 new jobs we created during 2009, when many other organisations were still cutting back their staff levels after the financial downturn.  This includes 2,500 in Tin Shui Wai, as part of an innovative project that has won numerous awards during the past year."

To enhance its international competitiveness, Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said, the Club was creating a major new training centre in Conghua, north-east of Guangzhou.

"As well as extending our training capabilities and overcoming current capacity constraints, this important project will enable us to put a comprehensive refurbishment of our 30-year-old Sha Tin stabling and training facilities under way, upgrading them to world-class standards," he said.

Complementing these hardware enhancements, he added, the Club was committed to making the Club more customer-centric, and to connecting its businesses and charity contributions more closely with the community it served.

"I hope that our new and more customer-centric organisation will help us connect better with our customers, with our charity partners and with the wider community we serve," Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said.  "Our aim is to add greater value to Hong Kong in the years ahead."

Founded in 1884, The Hong Kong Jockey Club has become one of Hong Kong's best known and respected organisations, providing the public with world-class sporting entertainment as well as being the city's major non-Government community benefactor, now donating more than HK$1 billion a year to charitable and community projects.  It has been a part of Hong Kong through good times and bad, sharing the city's growth and development with its people, and is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for future generations.



MORE than 8,500 adults and children spent an entertaining and eventful afternoon at the Club's Pre-season Carnival at Sha Tin Racecourse last weekend.

Visitors took part in various horse-related attractions and programs such as pony rides for the children, photo-taking with the adorable Shetland ponies, and other family events like parent-child workshops, inflatable games and a toys mega-sale.

The annual Jockeys' Sprint, sponsored by razor brand Schick, was again a highlight of this year's carnival.  With the participating jockeys competing on an age-handicapping system, French jockey Olivier Doleuze was crowned champion of the 2010 contest, collecting a HK$5,000 cheque as well as the trophy from the Club's Executive Director, Racing, William A Nader, and General Manager of Energizer Hong Kong Limited Paulus Lau.

Doleuze was followed home by Jacky Tong and Derek Leung, who collected prize money of HK$3,000 and HK$2,000 respectively.  Mr Paulus Lau was also on hand to present a HK$1,000 prize to jockey Keith Yeung, winner of the Mr. Perfect award.

A memorable day was brought to a close by the evening barrier trials held over six legs on the turf - an exciting prelude to the start of the 2010/11 racing season at Sha Tin on Sunday 5 September.



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