Hong Kong Jockey Club keeps running strong with its proud traditions in the city
- The past 25 years have been marked by numerous horse racing triumphs and record-making moments, as well as initiatives to benefit society
- The Club is also looking towards the future, with its Conghua Racecourse in Guangdong province to help develop the Greater Bay Area into a racing hub
The tradition of horse racing is deeply rooted in Hong Kong, shared across the spectrum of society. The city is home to 12 international Group 1 races – the highest level of thoroughbred racing – and eight of those were rated among the world’s top 100 races in 2021, with six of the eight ranking in the top 50.
Entrusted with promoting equestrian sports development in the city is the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), which is not only an internationally renowned racing and sports wagering organisation, but also a pillar of society for its many charitable contributions.
In 2020-21, HKJC returned 77 per cent of its betting and lottery revenue to the city in the form of tax payments and charitable donations. Its total approved donations amounted to HK$4.5 billion (US$573.2 million), which went towards supporting 528 charity and community projects.
The transformative initiatives backed by HKJC over the years include Cadenza, a programme launched in 2006 with a donation of HK$380 million to promote holistic elderly care; the opening of the CUHK Medical Centre in 2021, supported by a HK$1.3 billion donation; and the construction of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, funded by a HK$3.5 billion donation.
A triumphant quarter-century
HKJC has seen many successes over the last 25 years with its fiercely competitive races, exceptional horses, internationally revered jockeys and trainers, and state-of-the-art racecourses and facilities. Its two Hong Kong racecourses in Happy Valley and Sha Tin have long been places where the action quickly heats up and records are regularly surpassed.
On New Year’s Eve in 1999, the Guinness World Record for the “largest dragon lantern” was set at Happy Valley Racecourse. The Millennium Dragon Lantern, which measured 277.2 metres (910 feet) long, was presented as part of the celebrations jointly organised and funded by the Hong Kong government and HKJC to ring in the year 2000.
In 2019, the Happy Valley Racecourse, internationally known for its urban atmosphere combined with electrifying races and entertainment, was named by CNN as one of the world’s top 10 most beautiful racecourses.
HKJC’s list of headline-making moments and achievements in the past quarter-century are too numerous to count, but here are some of the key highlights.
2005: Silent Witness sets a record at Sha Tin Racecourse on April 24, as the horse’s win in the Group 2 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup marks a 17th consecutive victory.
2007, 2012, 2014: Vengeance of Rain, Little Bridge and Rich Tapestry become the first Hong Kong horses to win Group 1 races at the Dubai Sheema Classic (2007), Royal Ascot in the UK (2012) and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in the US (2014), respectively.
2016: The Longines Hong Kong International Races – a Group 1 racing event that is widely known as the Turf World Championships – sets an attendance record with more than 100,000 people at Sha Tin Racecourse.
2017: In February, Tony Cruz secures a career milestone with his 1,100th win as a trainer. The legendary Hong Kong jockey-turned-trainer, who also collected 946 victories in the saddle, is the only person to surpass 2,000 combined wins in the city – Douglas Whyte (1,813) is the only jockey to have ridden more winners, and John Moore (1,628) is the only trainer ahead of Cruz.
2017: Joao Moreira – the Brazilian jockey nicknamed “The Magic Man”, who moved to Hong Kong in late 2013 – sets a new record in the city by riding eight winners in a single day in March, surpassing the old mark by two.
2019: Jockey Zac Purton, who began his Hong Kong racing career in the 2007-08 season, achieves a career-high 168 wins in a season in 2018-19. He also becomes only the second jockey in Hong Kong history to ride 1,000 winners, following Douglas Whyte, who hit that mark in 2008.
2020: Golden Sixty triumphs in the HK$20 million BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin, marking the first time in the professional era of Hong Kong racing – which began in 1971 – that a native Hong Kong trainer, Francis Lui Kin-wai, and a local jockey, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, have combined for a victory.
Racing towards the future
In 2018, HKJC opened the Conghua Racecourse in its namesake district in Guangdong province, with a vision of contributing to the development of an equine industry across the border. In March 2019, the Exhibition Raceday event at Conghua marked the first time that Hong Kong horses – ridden by some of the world’s best jockeys and handled by leading trainers – have raced competitively on the mainland.
And as HKJC’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the future of horse racing in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area is set to shine brighter than ever with these new stars in the making.