The incoming chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, outlined a range of new strategic areas of focus, all of significant importance to the sport in North America, during Thursday’s keynote address of the 55th International Conference of Horseracing Authorities.

Held virtually for the second consecutive year, this year’s conference was the first with Engelbrecht-Bresges as chairman and came following a governance review of the IFHA. Engelbrecht-Bresges presented the 12 objectives of the IFHA followed by 10 key strategic areas of focus.

“The purpose of the Federation is to be the global leader for the international sport of Thoroughbred racing,” said Engelbrecht-Bresges. “In being the global leader, the Federation seeks to promote all facets of the world-wide sport of Thoroughbred racing, to protect the welfare of equine and human athletes and to protect and grow its global, social and economic significance for current and future generations."

The full keynote address and conference can be viewed below.

“There should be no doubt that this address introduced an exciting and progressive approach to facilitating Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding, its economic drivers and all associated components for the foreseeable future,” said Patrick Cummings, Executive Director of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF).

“A global strategy for the sport’s future has never been articulated in such a capacity as Winfried did today, and it serves as a serious challenge to North American racing operators and regulators, particularly the newly-created Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, to focus on elevating the practices and procedures of the sport on this continent to meet international best practices.”

Engelbrecht-Bresges directed his address on three of the IFHA’s 10 strategic areas of focus – integrity, commercial and marketing, and climate change and sustainability. Among new initiatives, he announced the creation of the IFHA’s Commercial and Marketing Committee to be chaired by Olivier Delloye, chief executive officer of France Galop.  

“The Federation will identify ideas and strategies to create favorable conditions for racing operators. encouraging the optimization of online, international wagering and promoting racing as sports entertainment.

“To support the development of world pools and commingling, we should develop new racing wagering information and transaction integrity protocols, and the committee will look closely at this and other conditions necessary for the broader global simulcast [market].”

Only the second chairman in the IFHA’s history, Engelbrecht-Bresges asserted the industry’s need to engage on the topic of climate change and sustainability given the sport’s significant land resources and usage, as well as its reach across the global supply chain.

INTEGRITY, INCLUDING VIA WAGERING, A TOP PRIORITY

The greater role of the IFHA in protecting the integrity of racing through wagering was also well-noted.

“The Federation must step-up its efforts to assist our racing authorities to conduct all horse races on a level playing field. Only where this occurs can there be a true contest and the best equine athletes selected for future breeding, and the interest of breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys and punters can be protected. The Federation will therefore adopt a relentless focus on the integrity of racing.

“The sources of illegal betting must also be addressed and built into the integrity responses of our racing authorities. We must harness the work and expertise of our members to guide our racing authorities and other regulators in good practice approaches to combating illegal betting, promoting legal and regulated wagering and protecting the integrity of our sport.”

For Cummings, the calls from the IFHA’s new chairman embrace a global vision of integrity for racing.

“Thoroughbred racing has an incredibly complex ecosystem and we cannot afford to improve our approach to integrity in one area while ignoring another. The vision shared today recognizes these complexities and should serve as a challenge to IFHA members around the world, notably those in North America, to be attentive to all aspects impacting the integrity of the sport and the confidence of all participants – which includes the betting public.

“TIF reports over the last two years have identified substantial shortcomings in how North America approaches transparency, rules harmonization, wagering security matters and even illegal betting across racing. Industry trade publications covering North American racing are replete with examples of these shortcomings, sadly, on a nearly daily basis. Our approach to improving matters of integrity must be broad, not narrow, and tackle the many conflicts which have held the industry back on this continent for a long time.

“As TIF has articulated before, there are many positive examples to follow. Proverbial wheel reinvention is not required to improve the state of North American racing and wagering integrity.”