Happy Valley Race Course and Hong Kong Jockey Club are on the north of Hong Kong Island. Happy Valley, which was built in the 1900s, is one of the world's best known race courses. Sha Tin, the second course, holds weekend meetings, but it comes nowhere near Happy Valley for excitement and atmosphere.
It caters to the city's major recreational passion horseracing and lies in a floodlit oasis of green, surrounded by high-rise buildings. Residents of those buildings host parties on their balconies and watch the races from on-high.
It is Hong Kong's only legal form of gambling and is heartily embraced. One season, from September to June, can pull in over $15 billion!
Jockeys, horses and punters love Happy Valley's tight tracks and high stands, resembling a Roman amphitheatre. On race days it seems as though everyone in Hong Kong is there at the old track which rises and falls in a circumference of 1400 metres.
There are no on-course bookmakers; everyone has to bet at the window. Wins can be huge; if luck is running with you, you could win up to $10 million on a single bet. The Triple Trio, where punters have to pick three placegetters in any order, jackpots if not won, and has been known to reach $60 million!
The parade yard is very popular. From the moment the horses appear, the superstitious Chinese are on the lookout for signs of good or bad luck. The number eight in Chinese is the same word for "rich" so that is a very, very popular number. Four is the same word as "death" so that is a number to be avoided.
While a race meeting in Australia is a good excuse to get dressed up, there is not the same emphasis in Hong Kong. People go there to gamble, though there is a Ladies' Day once a year.
It is a prestigious honour to own a horse in Hong Kong. You need a permit and to be a member of the Jockey Club which has very stringent procedures. There are only around 12,000 members, and they are very wealthy and influential.
No one may own more than two horses due to the limited farming land. There are only around 1300 horses in Hong Kong and they are stabled at Sha Tin in the New Territories.
International visitors can go to the Public Enclosure or by purchasing a Tourist Badge may enter the Members' Enclosure. There you may roam the betting halls, trackside areas and take advantage of several dining options. Badges are available at the main entrance to tourists over 18 years of age and with a valid passport.
A suburb of Hong Kong.
Happy Valley Races are usually held between September and the end of June on Wednesdays. The first race is at 7.30pm. Admission is around $2 for the public enclosure and around $20 for a tourist badge to enter the members' enclosure. Shorts, thongs and singlets are not acceptable.
Virgin Atlantic has flights to Hong Kong.
- Sydney, $950
- Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, $1066
Valid for sale between April 5 and 10, 2007 and for travel between April 16 and June 20, 2007.
Prices quoted correct at April 5, 2007.
Hong Kong Tourism Board
Level 4, Hong Kong House
80 Druitt Street
Ph: 02 9283 3083
Happy Valley Race Course
2 Sports Road
Hong Kong Island
Ph: 852 2895 1523
Hong Kong Jockey Club
Happy Valley Racecourse
Ph: 1300 727 340