New Zealanders Des Friedrich and Robbie Hewetson have been employed in senior positions at a new state-of-the-art racecourse in Inner Mongolia’s capital Hohhot.
Friedrich, an experienced thoroughbred administrator, will be the chief executive and former assistant trainer Hewetson the senior racing steward at the facility which was officially opened at the end of June.
“It truly is a world-class facility and it really impressed everyone,” Hewetson told NZ Racing Desk.
“It’s a brand new track which has been built within the last couple of years.
“There’s a 2200 metre grass track, a sand track of 1750 metres and it’s a lot like Sha Tin. It’s the same profile and there’s stabling for 348 horses at this stage.”
The Inner Mongolia Racecourse is located in the north suburb of Hohhot and covers 320,000 square metres.
It is a combined venture under the name Mengxing Rider by an Inner Mongolian government company, which owns 51 per cent, and Mr Lin Lang, the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse principal known as “Mr Wolf,” whose company has the other 49 per cent.
The development of horse racing is also a convenient way to keep alive the heritage of horses and related culture among the Mongolian ethnic group, which used to rely on the animal for transport and survival, Lang said.
With stints as secretary of the Egmont Racing Club and Counties Racing Club and chief executive of Hawke’s Bay Racing and the same roles in Australia at Darwin and Alice Springs, Friedrich was looking to ease into semi-retirement when the opportunity arose at Hohhot.
“The offer came out of the blue and it’s a challenge too good to pass up,” he said.
“It cost NZ$250 million to set up and the infrastructure is unbelievable.
“As well as the racecourse, there is a horse arena alongside a function centre.”
The six-storey grandstand also caters for accommodation with approximately 100 hotel rooms and the racetrack has already proved a winner.
“The horses broke 58 seconds for 1000 metres on the sand. That’s how good it is,” Hewetson said.
“I’m impressed by the class of thoroughbreds up here. There are some very well-bred types who would be good enough to be in Hong Kong.”
The racecourse has been built to cater for all breeds of horses and, of the thoroughbreds, Friedrich said close to 95 per cent of them are New Zealand-bred.
Although racing officially began on the weekend of June 29-30, the next meeting is on August 3 and racing will then be held each Saturday and Sunday through to early October.
A rating system has been created along with a simplified Rules of Racing and the prize money has been set for the major races.
“The Group One races will be run for the New Zealand equivalent of $225,000 and the Group Twos for $110,000,” Hewetson said.
“All the horses have to be registered to come here. It’s a professional operation and has the potential to be huge.”
Hewetson’s experience within the thoroughbred industry includes running Mike Moroney’s satellite stable at Randwick.