Of the two thoroughbred racecourses in Hong Kong, Sha Tin in the New Territories is the youngest. It was opened in 1978 and is the home of the Hong Kong Derby and many other special races. The racecourse can seat 85,000 race fans, and it can be filled to capacity on important race days. Horse racing is very popular in Hong Kong and the betting action is intense. Here is a little more about Sha Tin Racecourse.
History of Sha Tin Racecourse
In 1978 it was decided to construct a new race track on reclaimed land in the new territories. At the time Hong Kong was still under British control. The track was planned to be larger than the older track, Happy Valley Racecourse. Nothing was spared in the construction of the venue. It featured the most advanced structural and aesthetic components of the day.
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The bettors and race fans in Hong Kong loved the new track. It was an immediate success and gave fans in the New Territories about thirty minutes away from the city itself a place to attend and bet on races. There were also plans to accommodate other events such as rugby and football matches. The Hong Kong Jockey Club was given oversight over the project and still runs Sha Tin to this day. In Hong Kong all betting is done under the watchful eye of the HKJC.
In 2007 the track set a new attendance record with a 1-day crowd of 60,000 people. More than $106 million was wagered that day on horse racing. The track also became famous for allowing the children of horse owners to attend the races. This was very out of character for Hong Kong as children are not permitted in gambling venues.
Sha Tin Racecourse is an Advanced Racing Venue
There are many features which make Sha Tin racecourse stand out among other tracks in the world. The original track was able to seat 35,000 people in its grandstand. Another grandstand has been added to bring the total capacity to 85,000. There are also 20 barns on the track property that can house 1,260 horses. It is not uncommon for the barns to remain at or near full capacity during the racing season.
There are even more impressive features of this legendary race track. On the property is a complete equine hospital. Horses can be treated for any ailment without having to leave the grounds. This speaks of how horses are treated in Hong Kong. The animals are given a measure of respect as competitors. They are held in no less regard than the men and women who train and ride them, perhaps even higher regard by some.
A racing laboratory is also maintained, and there is an equine swimming pool for trainers that prefer to train their horses by swimming them. This alternative form of horse training has never really caught on in the United States, although some trainers do it on occasion as a break from the normal training routine.
One of the most stunning features of the venue may be a stunning riverside gallop. This gives horses and exercise riders a more pleasant environment when horses are being lightly trained.
There are two track surfaces at Sha Tin. The primary track is a turf course that is a little over 1 mile with a 470 yard chute, or straight course. The dirt track is All Weather, a type of synthetic race track that some believe is safer for horses. It is just under a mile in circumference. Unlike in the US the turf track gets the majority of action and is the outer track. The inner track is the synthetic course.
The Importance of Sha Tin Racecourse to Hong Kong Culture
Do you want to know how popular horse racing is in Hong Kong? Michael Jackson was once scheduled to play the Sha Tin Racecourse on a world tour. His concert was canceled because it conflicted with the horse racing season at Sha Tin! That should tell you all you need to know about racing in the region.
Betting on horses in Hong Kong is a very popular pastime. The money that is wagered at Hong Kong race tracks exceed that of anywhere else in the world. In fact, a single day of betting at Sha Tin and Happy Valley can exceed the amount of money that is bet at a US track during an entire race meet. This can be credited to the wealth of the region as well as the popularity of horse racing.
Sha Tin even demands its own Racecourse Station on the Mass Transit Railway. This station is only used when there is live racing happening at Sha Tin Racecourse. Several buses also serve the race track.
Important Racing Events at Sha Tin Racecourse
The most important racing events in Hong Kong are held at Sha Tin racecourse. Perhaps the biggest of them all is the Hong Kong International Races. This carnival is held in December. Four of the richest races in the world are contested during the event. These are the Hong Kong Cup, the Hong Kong Mile, the Hong Kong Sprint, and the Hong Kong Vase.
Sha Tin Racecourse is also home to the Hong Kong Triple Crown which is conducted from January through May. This is a series of three races that includes the Hong Kong Steward’s Cup, the Hong Kong Gold Cup, and the Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup. A number of other races are also held throughout the racing year, making the Sha Tin racing season the richest in the world.
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