WITH FOUR decades of racing experience to show on his CV, it is easy to assume Dubai Racing Club’s recently appointed Racing Advisor Michael Wanklin knows the nuts and bolts of the sport. He started out as a handicapper in Zimbabwe and rose to international prominence working as a Senior Handicapper in his native South Africa and then onward to his appointment as Vice President of Racing with the Singapore Turf Club (STC), a position in which he performed admirably during his nine years turning the country into one of the world’s top racing jurisdictions.
Wanklin arrived in the UAE ahead of the start of the season from his base in Malaysia, having been brought in on a season long contract to fill the void created by the departure of the long serving Frank Gabriel Jr. According to Wanklin, his new role of Racing Advisor is similar to the one in Singapore and Al Adiyat caught up with the South African to find out more about the man tasked with running the DRC and taking racing forward. Excerpts...
Can you tell us more about your role as Racing Advisor and if there is a set term for which you have been appointed? Basically, it is to bring a new level of expertise, and assist and advise the Board and staff team at the Dubai Racing Club (DRC) for the 2020-21 race season in all aspects of horse racing and management of stables, the racetrack, the Dubai World Cup Carnival and the Dubai World Cup race meeting.
Currently, I am engaged on a seasonal contract for the 2020/21 season. DRC has a lofty status to uphold in terms of global racing? Does that bring added pressure on you? Having been Vice President (Racing) with the Singapore Turf Club for nine years the Advisory role at DRC is very similar. I don’t feel that there is added pressure with this position; it is mainly the evolutionary process of getting to know the various new personalities that I’ll be engaging with and have to engage with.
Have you had a working relationship with racing in the UAE before?
I have, on a couple of occasions, been involved in the selection process for the Dubai World Cup race meeting. I have also had frequent occasions to be in international meetings with officials from the Dubai Racing Club.
What’s your opinion of racing in the UAE vis-a-vis South Africa and other centres like Singapore where you’ve worked?
Racing here is obviously world class and it is quite exceptional that the timing of the Dubai season really fills a global gap in the racing calendar. The obvious big difference with the two countries you mention is the fact that there is no local wagering on the Dubai/UAE product. I find that the sponsorship aspect in Dubai is top class and the level of support of such iconic companies with the racing scene here is unique.
Obviously, you are well versed with racing in the UAE and the standards set here. Any plans to change or tweak a few things?
I come with open eyes and understandably I am inclined to orientate procedures to what those I am used to. Obviously, where I see areas of possible improvement, I will discuss with the Chairman and Board and implement things if they are agreed upon. Hopefully, I can bring a fresh view to the product, and that it will push elevating DRC to an even higher standard.
You’ve been involved in the sport for long in various roles... How is this position different to the others held by you?
In broad terms it is very similar to my position of VP (Racing) in Singapore. Obviously, it is a far broader role than my position of Senior Handicapper when in South Africa.
Racing in the region has grown tremendously over the years with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both hosting big money racing.
Any plans to work together with those jurisdictions to further improve racing in the region?
It is definitely on my agenda to broker strong cooperative relationships through the region for the betterment of racing in the area as a whole. First, though, I need to establish the dynamics of how these jurisdictions relate to each other.
Can you tell us more about you personally?
hobbies, I really enjoy the spectacle of Thoroughbreds in action: particularly the superstars we see every year through the Dubai World Cup Carnival and on Dubai World Cup night. I am prone to enjoy playing golf when I get an opportunity. World news and heavy metal music are also favourite pastime activities. I’m quite a gregarious fellow and enjoy the company of like minded friends.