Andrew Harding

published: 28 Feb 2014 in Q&A

The Asian Racing Federation is the peak regional body for thoroughbred racing in Asia, Australia, Arabia and South Africa.

The federation’s activities include promoting and facilitating the internationalization of racing; quality control of ‘black type’; harmonization of the rules of racing and of drug control across its members throughout the region; and assisting the development of racing throughout ARF countries.

Further to this the ARF’s objectives include fostering goodwill and mutual understanding and to improve the standards of racing in Asia.

Another feature of the ARF’s operations is the conduct, approximately each two years, of a conference.

The first of these conferences was held in Japan in 1960 and the 35th such conference will take place in Hong Kong from May 5 to 8.

With the conference being talked about throughout the thoroughbred world Stallions questioned former Australian Racing Board chief executive officer about the conference.

In the first of a two-part series Mr Harding, who is the ARF’s secretary general and the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s director of racing development, replied to questions about representation, numbers attending, Chinese registrations, the site, the main topics of discussions and other matters.



Q.: How many countries are likely to be represented

A.: Between 35 and 40. While Asia is our theatre the issues dealt with at the Asian Racing Conference are global.


Q.: What are the projections of the numbers attending

A.: We are expecting some 500 representatives from member countries, non-member countries, racing officials, observers and the media.


Q.: Will there be any newcomers amongst the presentation.

A.: Yes Iran, Kuwait, Azerbaijan and Trinidad. As a matter of interest the Asian Racing Federation member countries are Australia, Bahrain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia (affiliate member), Japan Korea, Kuwait (affiliate member), Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia (associate member), New Zealand, Pakistan, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan (affiliate member), United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.


Q.: Will Chinese thoroughbred interests be represented

A.: Yes, a number of groups from China have already registered for the Conference.


Q.: Where will the conference be held

A.: Hong Kong’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. This is an award- winning venue, and was the site for the handover ceremony in 1997 when sovereignty was handed over from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China.


Q.: What will be the main topics of discussion

A.: We are being ambitious in staging 15 different sessions, so every issue of major importance to racing will be addressed. These will include the recent changes in the wagering market with English companies William Hill and Ladbrokes entering the Australian market via acquisition of corporate bookmakers. Other important topics include the development of racing and breeding in Mainland China, race fixing, match fixing, organized crime, the new frontier in anti-doping, cutting edge developments in sports television, the creation of “super” Group 1 races, the development of new racing carnivals such as “The Championships” at the Sydney Autumn Carnival and how Premier League Football uses social media to attract new fans.


Q.: Will there be any practical demonstrations

A.: Yes, we are also staging a special seminar at Shatin on racecourse operations. This is the first time we have done this at an Asian Racing Conference and the response has been so strong that we have had to move discussions into a larger room.


Q.: Who will be the primary speakers

A.: The key speakers will include the sports law specialist Mark Warby QC, Chief Justice Mukul Mugdal, the commissioner tackling Indian Premier League match fixing in India, the world renowned arts administrator Michael Lynch CBE, Breon Corcoran, the chief executive officer of Betfair, Philippe Germond, chief executive officer of Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), Dr Perikles Simon, adviser to the World Anti-Doping Authority on gene doping, Nick McKenzie, the Walkley Award winning investigative reporter, and Scott McLeod, who is Everton Football Club’s social media guru.










Since being first held in Tokyo in 1960 – when 69 delegates from 12 racing organizations representing seven countries – the Asian Racing Conference has grown spectacularly over the years since.

The conference, which is conducted under the auspices of the Asian Racing Federation, has also become one of the most important assemblies in the world of thoroughbred racing.

As a result the conference has been able to attract an ever higher profile of speaker as the industry addresses the problem of increasing competition for the gambling dollar and other vital issues.

In his capacity of secretary-general of the ARF former Australian Racing Board chief executive officer Andrew Harding has become one of the most highly regarded and respected administrators in the industry.

Mr Harding, who is also the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s director of racing development, in his role as the ARF’s secretary-general, is at the forefront of the organization of  the 35th Asian Racing Conference which is to be held in Hong Kong from May 4 to 8.

In the  second of a two-part series Mr Harding answered questions about the major players and topics, the appointment of Barrie Cassidy as one of the key moderators and other matters.



Q.: Mark Warby is a high profile player

A.: Mark is having a stellar career appearing in cases involving a who’s who of notable identities including Max Mosley, Elton John, Naomi Campbell, J.K. Rowling and Lord Ashcroft. Rated among the United Kingdom’s top five barristers he has led a string of prosecutions for betting-related corruption of races as well as important legal contests in football, rugby and other sports. He will be speaking on the essential elements of successfully prosecuting major integrity cases.


Q.: Will the possibility of Chinese racing being sanctioned be discussed

A.: This topic is going to be the focus of a special session on the third day of the conference. As everyone in the industry knows the opening up of China to racing and breeding is the most anticipated development in industry circles around the globe. With highly respected Australian journalist Barrie Cassidy as moderator an international panel of China experts, industry leaders, Mainland officials and representatives of the current major panel will be analyzing this topic in considerable detail.


Q.: How did Barrie Cassidy come to be selected as moderator

A.: Barrie Cassidy was chosen for his ability to bring two key attributes to this role. First, is Gravitas. He was press secretary to Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and he has been anchor of such authorative programs as the 7.30 Report and Insiders, which has led to him being acknowledged as one of the lions of Australian journalism. Secondly, he has a love of racing. Anyone who has watched the ABC’s program Offsiders knows how much Barrie loves his racing. As a result this will enable him to add a special dimension to his moderating of the topic Racing and Breeding in Mainland China.


Q.: Are you expecting the discussion about China to attract a capacity audience

A.: It will certainly attract a capacity audience given that it is the most talked about subject in racing globally.


Q.: The topic of the future landscape of wagering will also be a feature

A.: It will be with the ceo of Betfair meeting two totalisator chiefs. Breon Corcoran, Phillipe Germond and Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges will headline a panel examining the future landscape for wagering. Prior to joining Betfair Brian was chief operating officer at Paddy Power. He joined Paddy Power in 2001, having previously worked with J.P.Morgan and Bankers Trust. He has an MBA and is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. Phillipe, in his capacity of ceo of PMU, and Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, each run totalisator operations which are amongst the largest in the world so they have a wealth of experience between them. This session will also be moderated by Barrie Cassidy.


Q.: On a personal note are you enjoying living and working in Hong Kong

A.: It is a wonderful place in which to work and live. It is also a very exciting adventure for our kids. One of the bonuses is that they are all learning Mandarin. They teach me phrases to use, but I just need to be careful they don’t prank me.


Q.: Are you returning to Australia from time-to-time

A.: I do a lot of travelling but trips home are few and far between unfortunately.