Hong Kong horse racing is renowned for the great fervour and excitement created by its passionate locals who fill the two major racecourses, Sha Tin and Happy Valley, each week to create an exhilarating betting atmosphere unmatched anywhere in the world.
Hong Kong is home to the world's richest day of racing each year, Hong Kong International Race Day. The majority of Hong Kong race meetings take place on Saturday or Sunday afternoon (at Sha Tin race track) and most Wednesday nights (at Happy Valley race track) between September and early July each year, with over 78 race meetings held each season. Sha Tin racecourse hosts day meetings which normally begin around 1:00pm, and night meetings at Happy Valley kick off around 7:15pm.
Thoroughbred racing is the only legal form of gambling in Hong Kong and punters here take their betting quite seriously with upwards of $90 Billion spent through the racing season between September and June.
Racing is conducted by The Hong Kong Jockey Club which monopolises racing and betting in the territory, and the HKJC is the territories largest taxpayer and charity, with up to $6Million plus bets placed on each Hong Kong meeting. All betting goes in to a pari-mutuel system and gambling has been kept very clean in Hong Kong with authorities monitoring horse racing very closely.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club insists its Stewards conduct the cleanest of races and supervise a strict code of ethics through all facets of the sport and wagering industry. The huge prize money on offer in Hong Kong lends itself to top owners, trainers and riders making the long journey to the territories to try their luck at thoroughbred racing in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club was formed in 1884 and the HKJC holds a government granted monopoly for taking bets on Hong Kong horse racing events. The Hong Kong Jockey Club administers horse racing at two racetracks, Sha Tin and Happy Valley, and they hold nearly 700 horse races per year with large crowds on average of around 46,000 people per race card.
Thoroughbred horse racing in Hong Kong is vital to the economy and contributes huge taxes, with local charities being a major beneficiary of funds.
Gambling on the horses is a large part of people's lives in Hong Kong and the locals are very passionate thoroughbred followers who bet hundreds of millions of dollars on horse racing each season. The HKJC website is a wonderful resource for all things racing related in Hong Kong and it has quality information to assist any punter.
Racing at Happy Valley Racecourse typically holds a lower grade meeting than weekend racing with most events ranging from Class 5 to Class 1. There are no Group 1 races held at Happy Valley race track.
The Happy Valley track itself suits particular race types due to the tight turns and twisting nature of the course, with adaptable horses faring better here. Happy Valley hosts almost all meetings at night, and being situated inside a wall of skyscrapers, it creates an electric gambling atmosphere amongst a dazzling array of lights which all add to the night’s excitement.
The world class course also offers bars, restaurants, and a diverse mix of racing fans, who all combine to make for a spectacular night's racing. The buzz that is Happy Valley on a Wednesday night has to be seen to be believed and is a must see for any horse racing enthusiast.
Sha Tin Racecourse is a world class race track with top quality facilities and is the larger of the two race tracks in Hong Kong.
Built in 1978, and also run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the infield houses Penfold Park, which is open to the public when horse racing is not on the agenda.
Sha Tin racecourse is a roomy track which gives all horses an equal chance of greeting the judge in first place. Racing is held on both an all-weather dirt track and turf.
Sha Tin is home to all Group 1 races in Hong Kong, including the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, Champions Mile and the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby. The track has a seating capacity for up to 85,000 screaming fans along with 23 stables that allow residency for 1,260 horses.
Other features at Sha Tin include an Equine Hospital, Racing Laboratory, Riverside Gallop and an Equine Swimming Pool.
Fourteen Group 1 races are run in Hong Kong each racing season and the major Hong Kong International Race day in December offers prize money in excess of HK$64Million (around $8.2M Australian).
International Race day includes four feature Group 1 Races: the Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), the Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and the Hong Kong Vase over 2400m.
In March, the prestigious 'Hong Kong Derby' is a popular event locally, and only 4yo gallopers training in Hong Kong can compete in the classic event.
In April at the Sha Tin turf course, the 'Champions Mile' takes place and forms one part of the Asian Mile Challenge, which is an international racing series of Group 1 races that comprises the Futurity Stakes in Australia, the Yasuda Kinen in Japan, the Dubai Duty Free in Dubai and the Champions Mile.
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Below are the feature Group 1 races held in Hong Kong each year.
|Month||Group 1 Race||Status||Distance|
|December||Hong Kong Cup||3yo+||2000m|
|December||Hong Kong Mile||3yo+||1600m|
|December||Hong Kong Vase||3yo+||2400m|
|December||Hong Kong Sprint||3yo+||1200m|
|January||Hong Kong Classic Mile||3yo+||1600m|
|January||Citi Stewards' Cup||3yo+||1600m|
|February||Centenary Sprint Cup||3yo+||1000m|
|February||Chairman's Sprint Prize||3yo+||1200m|
|February||Hong Kong Gold Cup||3yo+||2000m|
|March||Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup||3yo+||1400m|
|March||Hong Kong Derby||4yo||2000m|
|April||QE II Cup||3yo+||2000m|
|May||Champions & Chater Cup||3yo+||2400m|
Hong Kong racing operates under a ratings handicapping system that provides a horse with a numerical points rating after each race performance. A Horses rating will increase or decrease dependant upon where they finish in their most recent race start. There are five class levels in Hong Kong racing which are 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, with one being the highest rated class and five the lowest.
Horse ratings decide the different races where the Jockey Club will place horses in upcoming races and the class band is set to around a 20 point interval in Hong Kong. Any horse with a rating of 95 or more can compete in pattern races and the better quality gallopers can ply their trade in Group One, Two and Three races.
Hong Kong horses have improved considerably over the years and local gallopers can now hold their own against the top quality thoroughbred raiders from Australia, Japan, Europe and the United States in the big money feature races.
Limited space in Hong Kong means little room for breeding and the HKJC imports all of its thoroughbreds from various horse racing countries in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The average number of horses in training is about 1,100 and around 300 to 350 horses are brought in each year to maintain a consistent population level.
The world's best horses, jockeys and trainers are drawn to the excitement of Hong Kong racing plus the huge prize money on offer. Every season racing nations such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Singapore, England, Ireland, Germany, France, North and South America are represented, which showcases Hong Kong racing to the world.