Jockey Club's July 1 race card has strong political theme

Eight of 11 races at Sha Tin tomorrow have a political theme, such as the High Autonomy Handicap; it's part of Jockey Club tradition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 June, 2013, 5:07am

With all the action planned for tomorrow's handover anniversary, it certainly won't be a one-horse race - especially if you are taking a punt on the High Autonomy Handicap at Sha Tin.

Pan-democrats have been busily criticising the organisers of events that will clash with the annual protest march, but it seems they have missed one target: the Jockey Club.

The race card for the July 1 Reunification Cup and 10 other races - which drew 28,000 people last year - reads like an abridged version of the Basic Law.

Last year, the club came up with a political trifecta. There was the One Country, Two Systems Handicap, the High Autonomy Handicap and the Racing Goes On Handicap - referring to late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's famous dictum.

This year, the organisers have taken it a step further. Eight out of the 11 race names have political themes, notably the Hong Kong People Administering Hong Kong, the Harmonious Hong Kong, and the Prosperity and Stability and World City handicaps.

Race seven - named with its sponsor, the Chinese Manufacturers' Association, in mind - seems almost out of place.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung will be the only government official presenting trophies tomorrow, but it appears to have nothing to do with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying being booed at the racecourse in December because no official had attended the July 1 race.

Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, who has owned horses for more than 20 years, said political themes were common at the races before the 1997 handover, when British business leaders dominated the club's board of stewards.

"We had the Queen's Cup or the Queen Mother's Day Cup in those days," Tien recalled. "Nowadays, other than chairman Brian Stevenson, all the other stewards are Chinese and pro-Beijing … so it's understandable the stewards would suggest these names."

A club spokesman said the handicaps were named based on the race day's theme. "We staged the Hong Kong: Our Home Cup [on June 2] and the handicaps were named in line with the Hong Kong: Our Home campaign. We have race days for our sponsors, too," he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said it was "funny" that the club had come up with the political race names. "People will go to the horse racing or the march anyway, regardless of the names … so [the club] does not need to be such a lackey."

  • With tropical cyclone Rumbia moving across the Philippines and entering the South China Sea early this week, the organiser of tomorrow's pro-democracy march, the Civil Human Rights Front, announced contingency plans. If the No. 8 typhoon signal was in force at 2.30pm, the march would be postponed until next Sunday, it said. The Observatory says the storm will bring unsettled weather to the city early this week as it draws closer to the Guangdong coast.

Additional reporting by Amy Nip