Hong Kong Horse Racing – Origins and the modern era tracks

Hong Kong Horse Racing – Origins and the modern era tracks

Hong Kong horse racing commenced in 1841 after China had ceded Hong Kong Island to the British Crown. The British interest in horse racing drove the establishment of a racecourse at Happy Valley which exists to this day. The current administration, The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) was founded as an amateur body in 1884 to provide and promote horse racing. The club evolved into a professional organisation in 1971 and the racecourse at Sha Tin was opened in 1978 in the New Territories to complement the existing track at Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island. In the modern era there is no finer experience in horse racing than attending a meeting at either Sha Tin which races on most weekends, or Happy Valley which is the preserve of Wednesday night racing. They are both first class venues without peer for amenities such as bars, restaurants, entertainment, betting facilities, atmosphere and of course the racing itself. I have attended race meetings at numerous venues in the northern and southern hemisphere at the best racecourses and some of the most remote. Make no mistake, Hong Kong is the mecca of horse racing, the supreme pilgrimage for anyone remotely interested in experiencing the sport of kings at its pinnacle. My tipping service takes into account the differences between Sha Tin and Happy Valley. There are variations in the two tracks and some horses are better suited to one than the other. Happy Valley racecourse is a picturesque track nestled below towering skyscrapers in a 360 degree ring surrounding the course. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Wednesday night at “The Valley” is not only race night but party night where live music and fireworks plus theme nights add to the floodlit atmosphere and excitement of the race meetings. Happy Valley has ultra modern facilities which are constantly being updated. Patrons are able to reserve tables in any of the restaurants high up in the grandstands and watch the brilliantly floodlit races in air conditioned comfort behind glass for the evening. International visitors are welcomed with free admission. Happy Valley is a tight turning clockwise track that is beautifully cambered. The circumference is 1,450 metres with a home straight of 310 metres. Races are held over distances of 1,000m, 1,200m, 1650m, 1,800m and 2,200m. A night at Happy Valley amongst a 40,000 plus crowd is unforgettable! Sha Tin racecourse is vastly different to Happy Valley. It was built over 130 years after Happy Valley and is located in the New Territories. For patrons, the amenities are first class with no luxury spared. Fine dining is on offer both Cantonese and Western, the betting facilities are state of the art and the racecourse is easily accessible by train into the racecourse station. The racecourse is also home to all of the thoroughbreds that race in Hong Kong with a huge stable complex that accommodates around 1,200 horses. Sha Tin also comprises multiple tracks to facilitate the needs of daily trackwork traffic. Race day surfaces are either turf or dirt. The two tracks at Sha Tin are clockwise. Turf track circumference is 1,900m with a home straight of 430m. There is also a unique 1,000m chute for racing down the home straight. Other race distances are 1,200m, 1,400m, 1,600m, 1,800m, 2,000m and 2,400m. Dirt track circumference is 1,560m with a home straight of 380m. Race distances on the dirt are 1,200m, 1,650m and 1,800m. Sha Tin hosts all of the premier Group 1 and International invitation race meetings and regularly attracts crowds in excess of 60,000 although I was at Sha Tin on the day where 80,000 patrons spurred on the champion Sacred Kingdom to win. At the time he was rated as the best sprinter in the world. Fantastic memories!   (Featured image has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.)

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