Hong Kong has always been an attractive destination for the biggest and best names in the world of horse racing. We’ve just had the International Races this December, and the racetracks of Sha Tin and Happy Valley always offer top-notch entertainment, exciting racing, and excellent betting opportunities for punters.
And the good news for UK gamblers is that this is a market now accessible, thanks to a deal between Hong Kong’s racing authorities and three of the UK’s biggest bookmakers: Ladbrokes, Coral, and Betfred. Make no mistake about it, there is a lot of opportunities, here – the Hong Kong markets are spectacular – turnover almost reached £135 million last season alone.
With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at the Hong Kong betting market, and explain some of the things you need to watch out for. Read on to find out more in our guide to Hong Kong horse racing.
As we mentioned above, the primary races in Hong Kong occur at Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses – on a Wednesday and Sunday. At Sha Tin, races take place in the afternoon, so you will have to be an early bird to place your bets – it’s 5 am – 10 am UK time. Happy Valley races are always in the evening, so that will mean placing your bets before 11.15 am and 3 pm UK time.
Happy Valley is fast becoming one of the world’s most recognisable courses, thanks in no small part to the fact it is located amongst huge skyscrapers, right in the heart of Hong Kong. And because of the evening race times, it has a unique atmosphere. It’s a tough track, with tight turns and bends, with a surprisingly short home straight, which, as you can imagine, leads to plenty of thrills, spills, and upsets. You should bear this in mind when placing your bets – the tactical jockeys tend to come out on top more often than not.
Sha Tin is a bigger track and holds up to 85,000 spectators – whatever the weather. It can be a boisterous place, with plenty of noise, and the atmosphere can be electric, despite the afternoon race cards. There is a long home straight, and race times tend to average at a second quicker than Happy Valley – UK gamblers should go for the gallopers, with this in mind.
The Big Event
As we mentioned above, the International Races event is the most prestigious date in the Hong Kong racing calendar. It hosts four first-class Group Ones, including the Hong Kong Vase and the Hong Kong Mile. All races are held at the Sha Tin racecourse.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC)
All horse racing in Hong Kong is run by the HKJC, who have been around since 1884, and is pretty much a monopoly. The organisation has a lot of influence, and while some might say ‘too much,’ it is seen as a prestigious part of Hong Kong society. The good news for UK punters is that despite the legal monopoly, the HKJC performs its duties with great integrity. There is a lot of scrutiny on horses, jockeys, and trainers, and there are stringent bans for anyone caught doping or cheating.
It makes for a much more even playing field for any person wishing to place a bet on a Hong Kong race. In fact, rates of positive samples are five times lower than the world average. Part of the reasons for these standards is that only vets aligned with the Jockey Club are allowed to treat injuries and illnesses, and everything is on the public record. It’s true that many horse owners and trainers will feel the Hong Kong system is far too strict, but for the average punter, it means you can rely much more on form, and pretty much guarantee you won’t be cheated out of your winnings by doping or race manipulation.
The Trainers & Jockeys
It’s important to understand that Hong Kong owners don’t’ breed their horses – they buy them. There are 24 trainers licensed in Hong Kong, but the competition can be fierce. Success is embraced, of course, but if you don’t win enough races, you will be asked to clean out your stables – in a friendly manner, of course.
It’s the same principle for the jockeys – you simply have to be at the peak of your game. Riders are invited into the HKJC, and the likes of Zac Purton, Douglas Whyte, and ‘Magic Man’ Joao Moreira tend to dominate season after season. Who you put your money on, however, is another thing entirely!
I hope you have enjoyed our guide to Horse Racing in Hong Kong. Until next time!