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Location: Hong Kong at the Sha Tin and Happy Valley Courses
Many Hong Kong people love the gambling on the horse races. It and betting on rugby is the only form of gambling that is legal in the region. The horse races have a long history. So many people like betting on the races that it now has the biggest average turnover of all the races in the world. More than that, the horse racing actually built some of Hong Kong. Most of the public parks, zoos, recreational facilities, and charities in Hong Kong were built with money donated by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In 1955, the Jockey Club decided to devote all its surplus each year to charity. It is rather a unique organization and is part of the reason Hong Kong’s taxes are so low. They Jockey Club is also responsible for making the gambling season fun since it is more like a public recreational organization. There are two big stadiums in Happy Valley just to the east of the city on Hong Kong Island and in the town of Shatin that is north of Kowloon. The races are held between September to July each year. In 2011, the racing season ends on July 10.
A lot of people have fun at these races. It is more than just gambling. It is about having fun with friends, having dinner, and having a night out. There is even a Racing Museum in the Happy Valley stadium where you can learn about the history of the sport and the Jockey Club. So for many residents of Hong Kong and tourists, it is a highlight of their week.
To make the races even more funny and accessible, the Jockey Club set up a “Horseracing Classic Tour.” For a fee of about 800 HKD or about 105 USD, you get picked up and transferred to the stadium where the races are being held. The Sha Tin stadium and the Happy Valley stadium usually alternate. The two pick-up points are at the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay and at the YMCA in Tsim Sha Tsui. People are taken to the Visitor’s Box and have a buffet meal. People also get some discounts and a 30 HKD betting voucher.
Racing at Happy Valley started in 1846. It was mainly run by the British troops. In the beginning, it was simply a track on reclaimed marsh. In 1884, the Hong Kong Jockey Club was founded as a non-profit body to organize the social and entertainment activities and the gambling of Hong Kong’s ruling class. Night racing was introduced at Happy Valley in 1973. Now, the stadium can seat 55,000 people.
The Sha Tin Racecourse opened in 1978. It is bigger than the Happy Valley Racecourse. It was built to allow the best world-class horse races to be run. It can seat 80,000 people, and it now hosts the most important racing event in Hong Kong that is called the Hong Kong International Races that is held in December. It set a record for the world’s largest Diamond Vision screen.
Race Schedule and Events: This information is available on their website.
Times: Day - 1st race 12:45 - 1:30 pm. Night - 1st race on Wednesday is at 7:00 - 7:30 pm; and the 1st race on Saturday or Sunday is at 5:45 - 6:45 pm.
Bet: The minimum bet is 10 HKD.
Transportation to Happy Valley: To get to Happy Valley, there are several ways. Travel isn’t difficult because it is only about two kilometers from Central District.
MTR: You can take the MTR (subway) to the Causeway Bay Station. Use Exit A. You can walk or take minibuses from the station.
Tram: Taking the Happy Valley Tram would probably be the funnest and quickest way to get there. The scenic ride costs only two HKD (about 25 US cents). Get on the tram marked “Happy Valley.”
Bus: Happy Valley has two bus terminals. A number of bus routes service the area. If you cross the bay on the Star Ferry, you can get a bus at the Central ferry terminal. The ferry ride itself is worth the time and the approximately 2 HKD ticket price to see the city and enjoy the boat ride.
Transportation to the Sha Tin Racecourse: To get to the Sha Tin Racecourse, the best way is via the MTR East Rail Line (the “Blue Line”) from Tsim Sha Tsui East Station. On race days, there is a special dedicated route on the Blue Line that takes people to the stadium. The journey takes about twenty or so minutes. What can be easier?