May 11, 2005
The train station is literally at the entrance to the races, and we used our Octopus card to gain entry (less that £1). Once through the turnstiles, we had no clue where to go – there are site maps, but they didn’t help too much. We followed our instinct and walked into a massive hall just crammed with people studying the racing news.
We arrived in time to "study the form" (like the sound of the name) and place a £70 bet for the second race. We think that we’ve made a bet, but in all honesty it didn’t matter, because our donkey limped into last place. I was more successful on the third race, when my horse came in first – but I didn’t I feel great as I collected my HK$3.5 winnings!
The lush grass on the circuit was easily churned up by the horses, and between races, we were fascinated by the group of divot replacers who walked onto the course with wooden "thumpers." This low-tech procedure was overshadowed by the large video screen that showed reruns of the race in slow-mo, as well as footage in real speed, regular updates of the payouts, the odds for the next race, and the amount of money placed on each horse. Phenomenal amounts!
All horses are led out onto the circuit by outriders kitted out in red "hunting gear" – a very grand and formal affair, the antics of the horses being projected on the "big screen" as they walked the parade ring and then cantered down to the start. Betting slips were handed out throughout the stadium, and with a little intuition, I became quite proficient. The betting hall was very much a utilitarian affair, and serious punters pored over the racing times and studied form.
The external appearance of the stadium was very sleek and 21st century, and the entrance hall to the inner sanctum had a line of horse statues decorated with the national flags of numerous countries. They were fun to look at, although we didn’t guess them all correctly.
It was a great, cheap day out!
From journal The Sights of Hong Kong