Sports Fan Abroad: Horse Races at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong

We’re going to switch the blog back to talking about some of our other travels on our round-the-world trip, but are hearts are still with Nepal. If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

Eric had thought that he might have the chance to sample sporting events all around the world on our trip, but as it turned out the only one we ended up going to was a soccer game in Olomouc, Czech Republic. However, when doing research on Hong Kong, he saw that probably the biggest sporting event there was the weekly races at historic Happy Valley Racecourse (established in 1846), and our time in the city would overlap with one of the race nights. Our hostel in Hong Kong had a sign up for a group outing, so that sealed the deal: we were headed to the races.

We met at the front desk of our hostel at 4:30 as we had seen on the sign, but were a little perturbed when we noticed we were the only ones there. No one else showed up, so the two of us headed out with out one of the workers. As it turned out, we were going to another branch of the same hostel closer to the track where we would meet up with a group from there. We were relieved to hear that, because it seemed like it would have been awkward with just us and the not-too-talkative hostel worker.

We rode the above-ground trolley over to Causeway Bay and then walked to the other hostel. Then we found out that the group from that hostel wasn’t leaving for another hour! So we just sat in the common area and used their WiFi while we waited.

The above-ground trolley drives away after dropping us off

The above-ground trolley drives away after dropping us off

Finally, a different guy who worked at that hostel gathered the small group (about 10 people) that had been waiting there, and we all walked over to the Racecourse together. We entered into the grandstand area, which was at track level. The entrance fee was a very reasonable 10 Hong Kong dollars (HKD), which is about $1.30.

A display outside the racecourse touts Hong Kong as the equine capital. It served as the site for equestrian events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics

A display outside the racecourse touts Hong Kong as the equine capital. It served as the site for equestrian events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics

We had arrived about an hour before the races started, so we had time to explore the area. The weather was great, so it was fun to just stroll around. There was a buzz in the air, with a lot of people already starting to fill the stands. We got a beer from one of the many vendors and then tried to figure out how the races would work.

The guy from the hostel who had walked us over didn’t actually know much about how the betting worked, so we all worked together to figure out how to do it. We found a paper guide that listed the different horses running in the different races, and then figured out how to read the odds board. Della didn’t want to pick a horse until we had seen them, so we waited by the area where they were paraded around before making our selection. One horse made good eye contact with her, so we chose him.

We went up to one of the places where we could place a bet, and were able to find an employee who graciously walked us through the process. We picked our selected horse to “place,” meaning it just had to finish in the top 3. We placed the minimum bet of HKD 10, so we weren’t risking much.

The confusing odds board

The confusing odds board

We made our way down to the track and got a good spot right by the rail and near the finish line. The race was starting on the other side of the track so we had to watch the first part on the monitors. It was over very quickly, but after watching the video replay we discovered that we won! We made a HKD 9.50 profit.

Emboldened by our success, we again bet on the second race for a horse to place (after seeing them parade by). This race was longer so the horses passed by twice. We won again! This horse was a bit more of a favorite so we only made HKD 6.

The group debated and decided to stay for the third race. We had a hard time choosing a horse to bet on, so we ended up betting on both a good horse and one with long odds. The good horse did place, but the long shot didn’t, so we didn’t get all our money back. In the end though, we made just about enough to cover the cost of our admission.

We then decided to head out, so we missed out on the many other races that went on into the night. Still, it was quite a fun experience, both learning how horse races work and being around the large crowds of tourists and locals alike. With how cheap it is too, we would definitely recommend it as an activity when visiting Hong Kong!

We took the trolley back home

We took the trolley back home

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