Progress Being Made In Chinese Industry

February 9, 2018

Source: TDN Europe

Mick Donohoe is a man who certainly isn’t averse to embracing foreign cultures, and the BBA Ireland agent has learned a thing or two about doing business in China over the last seven years. Donohoe has been and continues to be a regular visitor to China, and his endeavors have definitely borne fruit with the emergence of the Yulong group as one of the most significant overseas investors in Irish racing and bloodstock in recent years. Donohoe has been a prolific purchaser of both yearlings and horses-in-training on behalf of the group’s owner, Zhang Yuesheng, most notably when purchasing over 60 yearlings at the Goffs Sportsman’s Sale in 2016.

So what changes and improvements has Donohoe seen to the fledgling Chinese racing industry in the last five or six years?

“Obviously there has been quite a few developments since I started going out there,” he said. “There are now a couple of key core owners, Mr Zhang being one of them, who are investing a lot of money into the industry trying to bring it forward. On the racing front the Wuhan Jockey Club are now hosting regular racing as is Yulong Racecourse in the Shanxi Province, while a few new regional racecourses have cropped up. However, some are regulated and some are not, and that is an aspect that needs to be tightened up. Unification is needed to bring the running of the whole industry under one umbrella. Things are progressing but it is slow progress.”

The racing progress made in the last few years can be attributed largely to the efforts of Mr Zhang, who has proactively populated the country with good-quality Thoroughbreds. For example, the bulk of his memorable Goffs buying spree at the yearling sales in 2016 were shipped to China and sold to other prospective owners, thus increasing the competition on the racetrack. “Mr Zhang has facilitated huge progress, he came here, did all the hard work and landed a large number of horses in China,” Donohoe said. “He also handled the quarantine and paperwork and now those horses are running and doing very well so he deserves a lot of credit.”

For Donohoe himself, the prospect of exploring a slightly daunting new market such as China seven years ago held little or no fears.

“I’m well used to travelling and to be honest from the beginning I found the Chinese people very hospitable,” he said. “The daunting side of it was when it came to actually doing business. The Chinese have their own way of operating so you have to adjust to that and work with them. It took a while for me to adapt to their way of doing things but once you respect their boundaries I find it’s a very good country to do business in.”

In many ways when a nation to decides to develop an industry that is well established in other countries, there are no shortage of templates and blue prints available around the world. In this respect Donohoe thinks the Chinese have cut no corners in providing world-class training centres and education services to cater for their burgeoning industry.

“The standard of horsemanship has improved beyond recognition since I started going out there,” he said. “In particular at Wuhan and Yulong the standard there is second to none. They have employed jockey coaches from Australia and they have helped to raise the standard significantly while there are also some Godolphin Flying Start graduates who have brought international expertise to the industry. On the facilities side of things Mr Zhang built 500 stables at Yulong and both the stables and horse-walkers were sourced in Ireland, so it’s first- class.”

As well as being a champion of the industry in his native land, Mr Zhang is becoming a major international force with growing Thoroughbred interests also in Ireland, Singapore, Australia and America.

“This year he could have close to 40 horses in training in Ireland, so he has become a significant investor in Ireland,” Donohoe said. “This year’s bunch of horses are by far the best he has had as well so we are really looking forward to the flat season.”

This year some of the older horses that were in Ireland have been transferred to Singapore to continue their racing career.

“We feel when they may have reached their peak over here, some horses could benefit from racing over in Singapore,” Donohoe said. “For example, Yulong Baobei [a stakes winner in Ireland in 2016] is now in Singapore and when she finishes racing there she will probably retire to stud at Mr Zhang’s farm in Australia. Callender is another one that has gone over. The prizemoney is quite good out there and as well as Singapore being a kind of a halfway house, the organization behind the track in Singapore, through Eric Koh, were a big help to Mr Zhang when he was developing Yulong. For that reason he likes to support their racing product in return.”

(Editor’s Note: Yu Long Stable had its first win in Sinagpore on Friday with Yu Long Emperor (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}).)

Donohoe was at Goffs earlier this week shopping for fillies that will be destined to embark on breeding careers in another emerging Asian market, Outer Mongolia. He was assisting Mongolian veterinary surgeon Naranbaatar Adiya, better known as Nara, in his purchases on behalf of other owners in Outer Mongolia where the population of Thoroughbred mares is only in double figures. That number looks set to grow significantly due to the acquisition recently of a Group 3-winning son of Galileo (Ire) off the racetrack to stand in the country, whose name Donohoe unfortunately could not divulge just yet with the deal still in the offing.

“We began feeling our way in Outer Mongolia in 2013 and it is another emerging market that has scope to develop,” he said. “Nara is doing a lot of work in promoting the Thoroughbred industry over there and having bought a few horses privately earlier this week, we picked up three more fillies on Thursday.”

Nara, who himself specializes in equine reproduction, has been in Ireland on a number of occasions in the past few years and is keen to develop a supply line to Outer Mongolia from where he considers to be the best source of Thoroughbreds.

“We have been importing horses from Russia for many years but we would prefer to purchase them directly from Ireland as there is greater choice and quality over here. We were delighted to buy three fillies at Goffs including a three-time winning Iffraaj mare [lot 554] for just €12,000,” Nara said.

With the Thoroughbred industry in Outer Mongolia at such an infantile stage it can only go one way, and that is up. With his experience of aiding the development of a similarly nascent industry in China, Mick Donohoe is well positioned to capitalize on its growth. That being said, the Kilkenny man is no one trick pony, and with a healthy book of clients in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Hong Kong and America, the agent is not likely to let the grass grow under his feet in Ireland any time soon.