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Hong Kong Jockey Club: Of Horses and Humanity

One of the city’s biggest earners is also one of its biggest patrons

 

Other cities may love their football, rugby or basketball, but Hong Kong’s favourite spectator sport is unquestionably horse racing. On most Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons - horse racing days as locals call them - people from all walks of life gather to watch, whether at the course or live on television. Horse racing is deeply embedded in the city’s culture, and the experience is unlike anywhere else in the world.

At the helm of this phenomenon is the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC). Founded in 1884 as a civic club promoting equestrian sports in the city, the club has evolved into one of the world’s richest and most prestigious horse racing organisations.

Today, the HKJC has two internationally renowned race courses in Sha Tin and Happy Valley, an annual attendance of more than 2 million people, a turnover of HK$94 billion last season, and a per-race handle of over $120 million - almost 300 times of that of an average race in the US. And whereas other jockey clubs only see big crowds coming in for big events, the HKJC has a devoted fan base; local punters fill the stands throughout the season, every race day.

Over the years the HKJC has become a global brand in the racing world; it proudly hosts four international races a year with rich purses and by steadily improving the quality of the thoroughbreds it imports, it’s attracting some of the best jockeys and horses to race locally.

Key to its success is the civic nature of the club. As a non-profit organisation, the HKJC’s charter is to give most of its earnings back to the community after setting aside money to operate and invest in capital improvements. And give back it does - with earnings of $20 billion annually, bolstered by the football gambling operation with which the Government entrusted it, the Jockey Club spends to build art centres, schools and colleges, hospitals and clinics, parks and golf courses - even youth hostels. In a sense, the Jockey Club is about much more than just horse racing, and touches everyone in Hong Kong in many ways. The HKJC embodies the civic spirit which over the past 150 years has been built into the fabric of this community, making Hong Kong the civil society that it is, the reason why the HKJC brand has endured.

So attend a race if you can, and, while you are having fun, appreciate all the things that the Jockey Club stands for.

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