The city is no stranger to top sport, having hosted some of the football matches at the 2008 Olympics. But horse racing is something totally new. Yesterday, the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine announced that China had chosen Ireland as its partner to develop the new facility and to promote the sport.
Simon Coveney said, “Today’s announcement of a partnership involving Ireland to develop a major racing and breeding operation in China arises from the pre-eminent position that Ireland holds in the thoroughbred breeding world. The initiative should facilitate the development of a major export market for horses from Ireland and has the potential to provide a range of business opportunities for companies and individuals in Ireland who can bring a wide range of expertise to the project.”
The scale of those opportunities is truly remarkable: TECC is planned to have two international racetracks, stabling for 4,000 horses, five training tracks, a horse clinic, office space for 150 trainers, a grandstand, an equestrian college and a horse auction house.
JP Magnier was delighted that Coolmore Stud was to be a major player in the venture. He said, “This industry is something we are good at and today one of the biggest markets in the world has recognised that and has chosen to partner with Ireland.” Coolmore will take the lead in setting up a stud farm, which will import more than 100 mares in the next three years. They’ll also identify stallions to stand in China, with a view to building up to between 600 and 800 horses before racing itself begins.
But whether there will be any bookmakers present is far from certain. Betting of any kind is illegal in China, and yesterday’s announcement gave no indication that would change.