• A race horse rests in a stable during early morning training at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong.

A race horse rests in a stable during early morning training at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong. (Photo : REUTERS)

Wealthy Chinese are increasingly spending on equestrian sports with polo clubs and racetracks having cropped up across the country over the past decade.

China has 300 equestrian clubs and 25 racetracks, among them Tianjin's $2-billion "Equine Culture City," currently under construction and has 4,000 stables, training tracks, a clubhouse, and international equestrian college.

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One major push for the development of equestrian sports in China is real estate as luxury developers add polo fields to new projects.

This also means big business for horse breeders worldwide with an uptick in China sales in recent years.

According to an American seller, there is steady growth in China over the last three or four years, but the surge would not continue unless training and assistance for clubs are provided and that there are more competitions.

"We are putting on more horse shows, trying to show people that it's easy to get involved, and that it is fun and not all about the money," said the seller.

Wealthy Chinese businessman Ren Ningning said in an interview last year that in the next 10 years he plans to turn China into the world's next big horse-racing center, rivaling England, Dubai, Paris and Kentucky.

However, horse racing is frowned upon by Beijing authorities, who see it as a holdover from Western colonial times and an avenue for prohibited betting.

Chinese lawmakers are concerned that horse-track betting will only lead to more social ills and crime. As a result, China's major tracks rarely attract more than a few hundred spectators, and bets are generally placed under the table.

Horse breeders in places like France, England, Australia and the U.S. hope that China eventually develops a robust horse racing industry as a destination for their pricey thoroughbreds.