Saturday, 14 January 2012

A Night at the Races

It has been many years since Jules and I have been to the horse races, but the opportunity to visit Hong Kong’s Happy Valley Races was simply to good to resist. It remains one of the cities major attractions and is always listed as a ‘must see’ while in town. However, there are a few things that make this particular race meeting different from many others in the world. The location of the track is right in the heart of Hong Kong, which makes it particularly accessible, while the towering buildings that surround ‘The Valley’ adds to it’s unique atmosphere. Looped by the cities famous double decker trams, this weekly event attracts thousands of race goers every Wednesday night. Indeed, the fact that it’s a night time race meeting has probably been the biggest reason for its success over the years, with punters regularly streaming in after work to enjoy the colourful and exciting spectacle.

So for the first race meeting of 2012, Jules and I decided to join the crowd. We had found out about a special tourists ticket that enabled us to gain access to most areas of the course, so we walked casually through the members entrance as if we knew all about the racing world, which we certainly don’t. The first thing that struck us was the sheer size of the track and grand stand area. This was clearly an event that took pride in its status as a longstanding Hong Kong tradition and has continued to reflect its success through ongoing upgrades of its facilities. The sense of wealth was obvious and over the years it has clearly attracted some of the major owners, trainers and jockeys from around the world. On the night we were there, top Australian jockey Darren Beadman was on board several horses. In fact, he rode one of our first winners, although I must admit these were actually ‘hypothetical bets’ that we were having when we first arrived. It was unfortunately a very different story when we began to place ‘real’ money on our tips. Like so many other punters before us, our foolproof system of choosing horses based upon their names eventually let us down. However, our meager losses didn’t detract from the fun of the evening. We simply enjoyed sitting high in the members stand eating our Chinese dinner (a little different than the regular Aussie pie and chips) and watching the activities below. Whether it was the sizable brigade of ‘divot fillers’ who systematically ventured onto the track between races, the horses parading before their big race or the roar of the excited crowd at finish line, it was all part of a big night at the Hong Kong races.

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