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Enthralled by equine indulgence

Updated: 2017-06-23 09:37

Wealthy Chinese flock to pomp and pageantry of Royal Ascot

Enthralled by equine indulgence

Jamie Spencer wins the 5.00 Britannia Stakes on Bless Him at the Royal Ascot on June 22, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

ASCOT, England-Well-heeled Chinese citizens can't get enough of Royal Ascot and the lure of owning a winner is also proving attractive for the country's cash-rich tourists, according to the racecourse's commercial director, Juliet Slot.

Indeed so keen are they to buy into the Royal Ascot experience that this week for the first time the five-day meet is being broadcast by Chinese digital platform Sina Sports, reaching over 200 million households.

However, a more select group will experience one of the world's most glamorous horse racing festivals in a different manner.

"Sina came up with a wonderful idea which was similar to one I had but it was better," Slot said.

"A live-streaming event on Thursday to try to bring a piece of Royal Ascot into China, where people haven't seen it before.

"Thus, they will attend in Royal Enclosure dress, there will be a fashion parade, a bit of a competition, a beautiful dinner in an amazing venue outside Beijing and showing the racing live.

"It's absolutely wonderful."

Slot believes Sina, which owns China's leading social-media channel Weibo, is ideal exposure for Royal Ascot due to its young user base.

She added that the reason the meet, which is a favorite social event on Queen Elizabeth's calendar, is attracting Chinese interest is because they love British pageantry and traditions. Ascot is located about 10 km south of Windsor Castle, one of the royal family's residences.

"A lot of the Chinese ladies I sat with on Tuesday (the first day of the meeting) love British institutions, especially the royal family," said Slot, who worked on the successful London bid for the 2012 Olympics.

"They are fascinated by the whole thing as it is obviously not something they have.

"They love the tradition, and doing things properly, the way we dress, the dress code, the fine dining, how you eat properly and a sense of British style.

"They were hugely complimentary of that and they recognize this is one of the best meetings in the world."

Buying horses

Slot, who has been in her present post for the past five years and said Ascot has taken on some ideas that the London Olympics organizers implemented, said the meet was firmly implanted in the minds of a section of Chinese society and they were now dipping their toes into bloodstock sales-an unknown market for them.

"I entertained a large group of Chinese high-net-worth individuals on Tuesday and there were more than before taking an interest in buying horses.

"Some who came on Tuesday were at the Goffs Sales the night before and I would not be surprised if they come back and buy horses.

"We might not be on the tourist trail, but we are definitely in the minds of the higher end of the Chinese market."

To that end, Slot, who also secured American network NBC to broadcast all five days live, believes the next step in British racing's marketing push will be to encourage more Chinese fans to bid for horses.

"I would like to see more Chinese buying horses," said Slot.

"Because I think then, if they buy horses when they think they can win, it gets them really involved.

"If they get the chance to win at Royal Ascot and potentially be presented with the trophy by a member of the royal family or a celebrity-well, it means more to win at Royal Ascot than most places, and that would just be amazing for me."

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