Right in the centre of Hong Kong island lies the world’s most unlikely racecourse. Surrounded by massive skyscrapers on all sides, it’s impossible to believe there is a racetrack there until you pass through the turnstiles.
Thousands descend on the Happy Valley Racecourse every Wednesday night, and being keen racegoers in the UK, we decided to join them. It was a great evening of six races on grass all between six and ten furlongs.
Given the Anglo-centric nature of all the race meetings we watch, it was slightly incongruous to see Chinese jockeys and owners and to hear a Chinese commentary. But it was a pleasant surprise to be watching racing wearing shorts, rather than shivering at an English national hunt meeting. Caucasians comprised perhaps 10% of the audience but drank much more than 10% of the alcohol.
It’s all about betting, apparently an unbelievable amount of money. We were told that more money is bet at Happy Valley Racecourse in one evening than in the entire UK Flat Race season, and that the Hong Kong Jockey Club contributes 12% to Hong Kong’s entire GDP. So it’s easy to see why the racecourse still exists.
We couldn’t fathom the betting system (which is centralised like the Tote in the UK) and therefore failed to win any takings to off-set the gap year. Though we did enjoy trying to predict who would win from studying the super glossy race horses in the paddock. Hilary lost that contest to Roger.