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Singapore’s horse racing scene set to whinny in 2014

As the year of the horse gets underway, horse racing in Singapore is taking off.

The number of race horses in the city state has doubled since 2007 to 1,400 and the market is now starting to attract more international patrons, according to Wade Burridge, managing director of PremierRacingPartnerships.com.

"Ownership used to be dominated by the locals but due to incentives from the turf clubs and prize money increases, all of a sudden, Singapore has become a lot more affordable. It gives [owners] a bit more of an outlet from markets like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to own horses in Singapore. Now, I would say it would be a 60 to 40 ratio, 60 percent local, 40 percent international."

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As an Australian expat in Singapore, Mr. Burridge has worked in both markets and says when it comes to cost, Singapore is the better place to race.

"In Australia most training bills are between $5,000 and $10,000 a month, per horse. In Singapore, they are between $1,500 and $3,500."

Singapore worked hard to cultivate its racing scene. Yet, while the Singapore Turf Club has been in existence decades longer than the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and similar centers in Australia and Japan, it still lags in fourth place when it comes to betting turnover and the number of races.

Debra Hawkins, senior manager of horse ownership at the Singapore Turf Club says recent success stories are starting to help lift its standing.

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"I think with the emergence of stars like Rocket Man and our exposure over in Dubai and the fact that our racing gets telecast to many countries in the world, it has put Singapore on the map," she said.

Incentives and rebates from the Turf Club, along with an increase in prize money also makes Singapore a more attractive destination for race horse owners.

"In Singapore, we don't limit the number of horses people have, so it's very open. Prize money is probably the most important thing an owner looks at when they want to race and our prize money at the moment is $62 million a year. That doesn't include an owners' rebate. Every time a horse races, the owner gets paid a $900 rebate from the club, unless the horse wins or comes last. This is a huge benefit to owners because it comes directly off their training bill," she added.

These changes are also having an impact on the socio-economics of horse racing, Burridge says. Those interested in the sport no longer see racing as an exercise in extravagance for high net worth individuals.

"You don't have to be a king or a queen to own a horse, there's companies out there like Premier Racing Partnerships who offer people small shares in horses. We started with seven owners about 16 months ago, now we've got 524. They range from holding a 1 percent stake, all the way up to 100 percent."

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Hawkins told CNBC that Singapore's racing industry will benefit from this shift in 2014, and to expect more races and more winners in the coming years.

"We have an opportunity to race nearly a thousand races a year; our prize money in comparison to our stabling is huge. I think [Singapore] can only be on the up," she added.

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