It was indeed a history moment at the Asian Racing Conference on Tuesday night, the eve of Nelson Mandela's birthday, as South Africa's head delegate to the conference and flag carrier, Denzil Pillay, became the first person of colour to head a South African delegation in 34 years of the conference's existence.
The head of the National Horseracing Authority, Rob De Kock, took ill from the conference and Pillay, who is the Chief Executive Designate after De Kock retires in the middle of next year, took the lead for his country.
Pillay, a former head of betting for the National Gambling Board, has been at the NHA for the past 18 months.
The Gala event itself was stylish in every sense, in that the hosts, the Turkish Jockey Club, entertained the guests from the ARF regions in fine fashion. The headline concert act was a surprise to all, as pop star, Anastasia, performed live for over 90 minutes, ending with some of her best known hits that brought the crowd to their feet and dancing the night away.
The Asian Racing Conference itself got under way on Wednesday morning, at the Swissotel with opening addresses from Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and also by David Attenborough, the former CEO - South Africa, Phumelela, now the head of Tabcorp in Australia. The former International Cricket Council CEO, Haroun Lorgat, was also present and delivered his address with respect to cricket and its issues that are similar to racing, also lending insight to improvements racing can make.
The most fascinating topic of the day was the uptake of technologies by the various Jockey Club and betting operations. One of the more interesting ideas included the Hong Kong Jockey Club take on the new age of web 3.0 using gaming type technologies make the non racing fan an easier entry and understanding into the sport. They produced an addictive application for the Apple Store and Andriod with simulated races on your android mobile phone or iphone/ipad called racing simulator.
The conference continues on Thursday.