IT'S YOUR TURF
At the Hong Kong Racing Museum visitors get to pet retired horses and even race on a simulator, writes Peta Tomlinson
Most people will never experience the thrill of being an owner in the winner's circle on race day. But thanks to a Hong Kong Jockey Club initiative, we can all enjoy the next best thing.
Being welcomed on to that hallowed turf is one of the highlights of a visit to the Hong Kong Racing Museum, which opened at Happy Valley in 1996. Its aim is to reflect the importance of the history of horse racing and the contemporary role of the Jockey Club in Hong Kong.
'We try to appeal to audiences of all ages, to instruct and to entertain,' says Tiffany Lam, the museum's manager.
'We also strive to reflect the character of Hong Kong and the city's growth alongside the development of our two racecourses at Happy Valley and Sha Tin.'
There is something of interest for Hong Kong residents and tourists alike. Two tours are available: the Happy Valley Equine Delight experience (including a museum visit), and a longer, full-day tour that also takes in the Jockey Club riding school at Tuen Mun.
When there is no racing on in Hong Kong, vast areas of the Happy Valley course are opened to visitors. 'By opening up areas where the public are usually not allowed, we hope people will gain more understanding of the integrity of the sport,' Ms Lam says.
The Happy Valley tour covers all key areas including the weigh-in areas for both jockeys and horses.
Next is the inquiry room, where issues and objections are heard - similar to a court of law.
'We also take visitors to the Jockeys' Room, and the special area where all the racing silks are kept,' says Ms Lam.
Here, visitors can get dressed up in silks and stand beside life-size photos of famous jockeys such as Gerald Mosse and Weichong Marwing for a souvenir photo.
Another highlight of the tour is a visit to the stables, where people can pet some retired racehorses and miniature ponies. And then there is the Leading Edge programme - a mock race call complete with prizes for those who pick the winners.
A second tour, covering all of the above plus a visit to the Tuen Mun riding school, is held once a month. Here visitors see an equestrian demonstration, meet retired champions Fairy King Prawn and Indigenous, enjoy a talk by a farrier, and see the type of food horses eat.
Both tours finish at the Racing Museum, with its eight galleries and interactive displays, where visitors can ride a horse simulator or design their own racing silk.
The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays and most public holidays from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free. Happy Valley Equine Delight tours cost $40 ($20 for children and seniors), with an early-bird discount for people booking 30 days in advance. Full-day tours also including Tuen Mun, held once a month, cost $99 ($90 for children and seniors). Phone 2966 8065 or visit www.hongkongjockeyclub.com/racingmuseum.htm