One year on from the MJC’s shock decision to axe some of its Friday night fixtures – Macau would traditionally race Friday and Saturday – Taipa is currently hosting only one meeting per week, of just five races. Given the fears leading into the short summer break that the current season might not even start, and follow-up rumours that it would be closed by Christmas, the fact that it is operating at all is testament to the efforts of those involved at the sport’s ‘coalface’ to keep the show going.
There have been staff cuts, the number of trainers is down to 12, and the club is not able to simulcast its product outward for extra betting revenue; its pre-races trackwork show has been axed, and training footage is no longer available on the club’s website, no doubt affecting punter participation and weekly turnover.
Those who still have jobs are working day-to-day “in the dark,” as several participants described the situation. There has been no word from the MJC’s most senior figures, including the club’s chairman Angela Leong and her son, Arnaldo Ho. The latter represented MJC at the Asian Racing Conference in Melbourne last February, in his capacity as vice managing director, but sources have said that he has still not communicated any direction to trainers or owners: no word that Macau racing is going to end, nor any assurances that the industry has a future there.
On the face of it, the picture looks grim for Macau racing. Time is ticking and without horses scheduled to arrive, its current condition does look terminal. Yet there is still scope for a degree of positivity, however miniscule, albeit engulfed deep within a sea of uncertainties.
A fact that cannot be ignored is that the Macau government – for all that it is deemed by some observers to have no love for horse racing – did give a significant lease extension to enable the sport to continue, despite the MJC’s ongoing massive losses, debt owed to the government, and dipping turnover. But that was granted with a view to Taipa’s potential as a tourist draw, and as a site that could offer non-gaming activities alongside horserace betting.