The Origin of Hong Kong Horse Racing
Horse racing in Hong Kong commenced in 1841 with the arrival of the British, who immediately set about draining a malarial swamp to form a racetrack at Happy Valley. With the exception of a few years during World War II, the track has seen non-stop action ever since. The Hong Kong Jockey Club was founded in 1884 and changed from an amateur to a professional organisation in 1971. A second racecourse was opened at Sha Tin in 1978.
The growth of the sport's popularity was attended by an increase in illegal bookmaking. In 1973, the Government authorised the Club to operate off-course betting branches to tackle illegal gambling head-on. Since then, the Mark Six lottery and regulated football betting have also been introduced to combat illegal gambling.
The Club has a long tradition of donating to charitable causes, but it was in the 1950s, as Hong Kong struggled to cope with post-war reconstruction and a massive influx of immigrants, that this role became integral to its operation. In 1955 the Club formally decided to devote its surplus each year to charity and community projects.
The Hong Kong Racing Museum at Happy Valley provides a valuable insight into how the sport has evolved locally since its mid-19th century beginnings.
Club is Outstanding Contributor, Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games Equestrian Events, contributing to the design and construction of its equestrian events venue at Conghua.
Club is Principal Contributor to 5th East Asia Games, the first international multi-sports event hosted by Hong Kong.
Equestrian events of the Beijing 2008 Olympics successfully held at Club-provided venues, which won high acclaim from international equestrian circles.
A spectacular new Parade Ring, the first in the world with a retractable roof, is opened as part of a series of stunning upgrades to the Sha Tin Racecourse facilities.
The Club launches regulated football betting services.
Happy Valley Racecourse is redeveloped and upgraded to an all grass racecourse with world-class facilities
Hong Kong's first international race, the Hong Kong Invitation Cup, is held at Sha Tin. Six local horses compete with six from Malaysia and Singapore. The Hong Kong International Races have since grown to embrace four international Group One races on the same day – the Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Mile, Hong Kong Sprint and Hong Kong Vase – and are widely recognised as the world championships of turf racing, boasting a total purse of HK$62 million and attracting horses from some 10 overseas jurisdictions. Also in 1988, Telebet conducts its first test-run of the hand-held Customer Input Terminal. There are now around 80,000 Customer Input Terminal customers.
Computerisation of Telebet is completed. Off-Course Betting branches are fully computerised two years later.
Sha Tin Racecourse in the New Territories opens. With a capacity of over 80,000, it is generally considered to be among the finest in the world.
The Mark Six Lottery begins. Initially a 6 out of 14 game held weekly on Tuesdays, the Mark Six is now a 6 out of 49 game held three times a week.
The Club opens the first six Off-Course Betting Branches (OCBBs) to combat illegal bookmaking. A telephone betting service also commences with 2,000 accounts.
The Government authorises the Club to set up Off-Course Betting branches. Night racing begins in the same year.
The Club switches from being an amateur to a professional racing organisation.
Charitable donations from the Club have become large enough to warrant the formation of The Hong Kong Jockey Club (Charities) Limited. In 1993, this is replaced by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. Allocations to charities currently average HK$1 billion a year.
The first permanent stands at Happy Valley are built. The two three-storey stands were replaced in 1957 with two seven-storey structures, which were further expanded in 1969 to form part of today's viewing stands which can hold 55,000 racegoers.
The first Club Secretary is appointed and a Club office is set up in Central.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is founded to put local horse racing on to a more stable footing. In addition to organising all racing activities, the Club takes a commission on bets which at that time, were still placed through private clubs.
The first recorded race meeting is held at Happy Valley, virtually the only flat land on Hong Kong Island and previously a malarial marshland. Meetings are initially staged once a year, usually timed to coincide with the Lunar New Year.