01/24/2007 1:00AM

Mixed international pools seen as goal at conference


Commingling of wagering pools and artificial racing surfaces took center stage at the 31st Asian Racing Conference in Dubai on Wednesday as speakers from around the world continued to stress the importance of international cooperation as a key element to racing's future development.

Robert Charley, vice chairman of the Asian Racing Federation, and Louis Romanet, director general of France-Galop, described international cooperation in commingling as an issue that every major racing organization in the world should realize is an urgent one. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, executive director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, was even more to the point.

"Commingling is a vital factor in the success of the Hong Kong International Races," he said.

He estimated that opening the Hong Kong Jockey Club's pools to other countries has resulted in a 50 percent increase in pool size, better value through better odds, and significantly larger exotic pools.

France, which has traditionally lagged behind in commingling outside of Arc de Triomphe weekend, will soon join the bandwagon. "France will move forward in that direction as soon as I return there," Romanet said.

On the subject of artificial racing surfaces, Joe Osborne of Darley Stable stated: "This is a revolution. Let's all join in it."

More consistent racing surfaces, less costly maintenance, and conditions safer than those provided by traditional dirt tracks were cited as the main advantages offered by synthetic racing surfaces.

"They are a huge leap forward for the safety of riders and horses," said Keeneland Association president Nick Nicholson. "We are on the verge of a revolution in North American racing surfaces," he added, citing marked reductions in injuries on the recently installed Polytrack surfaces at Keeneland and Turfway Park. Their benefits have led to all major tracks in California being mandated to install synthetic surfaces. Arlington Park will also soon make the change, Nicholson noted.