Global Group Focus
There are many systems for betting on horses. Some punters reckon they can spot a winner from the way it walks, others like to analyse odds or the form book, and some just pick a name they like. But Johnny Hon, founder and chairman of the Global Group, has a more patient strategy— breeding racehorses in anticipation of galloping Chinese demand.
It is a strategy founded on an ancient passion. Horses are one of the most prevalent motifs in Chinese art and culture, and the country’s tradition of horse racing has a history that stretches back at least as far as the Zhou dynasty more than 2,000 years ago. By the 19th century, the Shanghai Race Club was the biggest racecourse in the world.
However, the sport has been all but banned for the past 50 years or more, yet Hon sees that changing. Betting is still not legal, but mock races are already being staged and some estimates suggest there are as many as 1,000 racehorses in the country, with plans to build 11 world-class racecourses across the nation. In addition, it has recently been reported that the government will allow horse racing in the island province of Hainan in the future.
As with everything in China, the potential is huge; one need only look at the growth of Macau’s gaming industry or the revenue and status of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. “I think that legal betting on horse racing across China will almost certainly happen one day, quite possibly under a state lottery scheme,” says Hon. “When you consider that the price people are willing to pay for a yearling depends on the demand, you could easily see that going up five or 10 times if many high-net-worth individuals in China aspire to buy a racehorse. I think that is the trend, so it’s a long-term game for us.”