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Horseplay is a rich man's game in ChinaGripping his mallet, Peng Zhichun gallops toward goal on a Chinese polo field, one of a growing number of the country's wealthy elite discovering the joys of the saddle and the whip.Club members have spent as much as 3 million yuan ($500,000) on a polo pony, and in one case 80 million yuan on a racehorse, Chen says – sums which are lifestyle expenses rather than investments.China imported fewer than 300 horses in 2005 but the number has risen tenfold in less than a decade.Now the country has about 500 riding clubs and half a million amateur enthusiasts, according to Wutzala, an ethnic Mongolian who uses only one name and runs the www.horse.org.cn website.But equestrian sports are far beyond most people's budgets, he says, with riding courses generally costing "250 to 400 yuan per hour plus coaching fee" and needing 30 hours to complete.The global industry salivates at the prospect of a vast new market opening up, and in recent years French gambling representatives have visited China several times to promote Tote-style betting on races, with the bookmakers financing the sport.
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