A new era in international racing got off to a strong start on day one of Royal Ascot, with the Hong Kong Jockey Club reporting a significant increase in turnover compared to the corresponding card in 2018.
In partnership with Ascot and Totepool, the HKJC has created the first ever pari-mutuel-based world pool – in which overseas bets from the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and the USA enter Hong Kong’s pools directly or via Totepool to ensure maximum liquidity.
Hong Kong has traditionally offered strong pools for Britain’s most famous Flat fixture – but opening the market to international customers created significant extra interest, with total turnover on the six-race card up from 163.2million Hong Kong dollars (£16.3m) to 223.9m (£22.3m).
The year-on-year increase of 37% saw almost 50m HK dollars (£5m) wagered on the St James’s Palace Stakes alone as Circus Maximus was returned at 11-1 to complete a double for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore.
Total turnover in the win pools increased from 26.8m HK dollars (£2.6m) to 47.6m HK dollars (£4.7m) compared to the same six races on day one in 2018 – leaving HKJC chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges to reflect on “a new dimension for the future of international wagering”.
He said: “It was a very encouraging start, with total turnover of 223m HK dollars (£22m) – including 52m HK dollars (£5.2m) from our international commingling partners.
“Our thanks go out to all those who have worked so hard to make our joint vision of world pools come true, and I am convinced we have a very strong foundation to build on.”
Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson described it as “a tremendous honour to provide the focus for the world’s first truly global pool”.
He added: “It is gratifying to see such increased engagement with the Hong Kong audience. Our thanks go to our partners in this venture – the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Totepool.”
The world pool consists of four markets – for win, place, quinella (first two in either order) and quinella place (two of the first three in any order).
But Engelbrecht-Bresges believes the scope for expansion is notable.
“In time I hope our next step is to also open up our exotic bets to the world pool,” he said.
“Exotic pools such as the tierce (first three in correct order) and quartet (first four in correct order) offer high liquidity with large dividends, and these areas represent another significant growth opportunity.”
Richard Cheung, the HKJC’s executive director, customer and international business development, said: “This is a great step forward for the club’s commingling strategy.
“The operation teams of the HKJC, Ascot, Totepool and our technology partner Sportech were thrilled when the first world pool was successfully concluded with the Queen Anne Stakes – and the 49.2m HK dollars (£4.9m) for the St James’s Palace Stakes is a record high for a simulcast race.”
This is the first year that all five days of the Royal meeting have been simulcast into Hong Kong. The world pool will be active again for Wednesday’s card – which ground permitting, will feature O’Brien’s star filly Magical taking on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up Sea Of Class in a high-class renewal of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.