Hong Kong Horse Racing 101
The Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a brand we see all over the city. Not just at the race tracks in Happy Valley and Shatin, but also displayed on their many betting outlets, university buildings, clinics and arts projects.
The HKJC is the largest single taxpayer in the city contributing over 1.6% of Hong Kong’s overall GDP and gives generously to many local charities. Just to put their revenue into perspective globally, here are some statistics for 2018.*
- Gambling revenue in Macau was $37.6billion USD.
- Gambling revenue in Nevada, USA was $11.9 billion USD.
- Gambling turnover for HKJC in 2018 was HK$234 billion, which is almost $30 billion USD.
Hong Kong’s Racetracks
Race season generally runs from September through to early July. Wednesday night tends to be race night and if you only have one opportunity to go, Happy Valley is the more popular of the two to visit. There’s also themed entertainment season round on Wednesdays at Happy Wednesday – where you can enjoy the thrill of live horse racing as well as live bands, exciting F&B choices an international crowd and more. So, whether you’re a racing novice or an old-hand, a regular or a one-time visitor, there are plenty of ways for you to enjoy a trip to the races. Hong Kong Greeters Owner and Guide Amy has also provided a few handy tips to help you get the most out of your visit.
Although serious money can change hands at these events, anybody can have a flutter. With bets starting as low as HK$10, it’s the perfect place for a novice to try their luck. Those at the counters are very helpful and will assist you with successfully placing your bet.
There is a great atmosphere in the public enclosure in a setting not dissimilar to a beer garden. You can catch live bands and grab a bite to eat from one of the food stands, washed down with an ice-cold beer.
Dress-code is casual, but we recommend that you wear plenty of ‘Eau de Moustique’. The swamp may have been drained, but there are still plenty of hungry mosquitoes buzzing trackside, so repellant is a must.
Please note, that it’s standing room only in public area, however you can’t beat the thrill of being right up close to the action, with the horses thundering past just beyond the railings.
Our Tip: “Bet on the name of the horse you like best, and you will have the benefit of beginners luck on your side!”
If you hold any passport (other than Hong Kong), you are eligible for the Tourist Pass at both the Happy Valley racecourse and Shatin. There is arguably more access behind the scenes at Shatin, but both venues offer a paddock view and seats on the finishing line. Current prices quoted on the HKJC website show HK$130 for Regular Race Meetings or HK$190 for Major Race Meetings.
Please be advised that there is a dress-code in the member areas. No shorts or flip-flops are allowed!
You will need to show your passport to obtain the Tourist Badge.
Our Tip: On how to make it look like you know what you’re doing…
“I always place bet on one of the favourites and then pick an outsider for a win. I never bet more than HK$50 on a horse though! If I’m being very adventurous, I’ll go for a Quinella Place bet, which means I can pick two horses I think might come in the top three. If they do come in, the odds are usually better.”
Dinner or Drinks at the Races
Stable Bend Terrace offers buffet style dining and free-flow drinks for around HK$600. This might be a nice option for a couple or small group to have a civilised evening out.
Again, a smart-casual dress-code applies with this option. No shorts of flip flops are permitted.
Alternatively, the trendy Adrenaline Bar offers a themed food selection, a signature drink and a copy of iRace in a chic setting. With great balcony views and cover from the rain, you can’t go wrong. The package on regular race nights costs HK$390 or $490 on big nights.
Our Tip: “If the Stable Bend Terrace or Adrenaline Bar are a little beyond your budget, but you’d still like a taste of the VIP experience, note that entrance to the bar is free after 10pm. So, you can have the best of both worlds. Start off in the public stands and then head up to Adrenaline for a drink to round off your evening in style.”
If you’re an old hand on the racing scene you might prefer to pay an additional HK$20 and head up to the Second Floor Terrace. Away from the more casual party atmosphere trackside, the terrace is fitted out with comfortable seating and excellent views of the course.
The seats include writing desks (so you can better concentrate on taking notes on your prospects and the serious business of placing your bets).
You won’t look out of place with binoculars.
Our Tip: “Study the form, study the jockeys, study the trainers, look at which trap is running well, is the horse lively tonight, listen to the pundits, seek advice from your neighbours, work colleagues etc. Check out the last four races for the horses, check weight and class… and then make a considered decision. Simple.”
It’s a 20-minute stroll from Causeway Bay MTR. Alternatively, hop in a cab or even better, ride the tram, known affectionately locally as the Ding Ding.
Take the MTR’s East Rail Line. On Race Days limited trains stop at Racecourse instead of Fo Tan.
- You can pay the small entrance fee with cash or your Octopus card.
- Entrance is strictly over 18’s only.
- Be sure to check the dress code if you will be anywhere other than the public enclosure.
- Don’t forget your passport if you want to buy the Tourist Badge.
Missed the Races?
If you’re visiting out of season or on a non-race day, but still want to learn about the all things ‘horse’, you could visit the onsite Hong Kong Racing Museum. It’s open from 12-7pm daily and charts the 150-year history of horse racing in Hong Kong and also showcases some of the Jockey Clubs charitable endeavours.
On your marks, get set, go.
Looking for more things to do? We’ve got you covered with Hong Kong events in our What’s On Guide.
Photo Credits: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Amy Overy is a certified private tour guide in Hong Kong and founder of Hong Kong Greeters Tours. They have been helping people fall in love with Hong Kong since 2012… leaving them with special memories, seeing and doing things they would never have expected, and of course having lots of fun! Hong Kong Greeters are top rated on TripAdvisor and can offer tours in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Russian and Cantonese.