In order to visit family in Melbourne and see some of the world’s famous racecourses, Trish and I stopped off at Hong Kong to visit Happy Valley on the way out, and Sha Tin on the way back.
For those who have never been, Happy Valley race most Wednesday evenings.
Happy Valley is a tight track in the middle of the city, surrounded by skyscrapers.
The tote deductions were lower than usual and encouraged a staggering turnover. With an attendance of 16,000, the tote turnover was HK$1,217,144,118, roughly £105,838,000.
There were eight races, the highlight being the January Cup, a Group 3 handicap for 90+ worth £240,000. Most races have a close finish, with usually two lengths covering the first four.
A few days after our arrival in Melbourne we visited Flemington, home of the Melbourne Cup.
Strangely, the experience was a complete contrast. A small attendance, the viewing 40 yards back from the track and, the winning post was a further hundred yards past the members enclosure!
There were, however, bookmakers, albeit at the back of the stands, while food, drink and getting a bet on were fine.
There was also a fine display of roses, a bed of which surrounded a handsome statute of Phar Lap.
Continuing on to Royal Randwick (NSW) for the Australia Day Cup, over 2400 metres, we had a day’s racing in glorious sunshine.
The racecourse had recently undergone a impressive rebuilding programme to emulate our own Ascot.
Whilst visiting the bookmakers, comfortably housed inside the ground floor, I saw the name of Rob Waterhouse. Wondering if this was the same man who had previously bought all my books, I enquired at the joint.
Suddenly, I heard, “Michael, how are you. Fancy meeting you in Australia.” His sister of course, Gai Waterhouse, was Champion Trainer and whose Danas Best, was favourite for the Australia Day Cup. Fortunately, I backed it and, leading from start to finish, it won easily.
Danas Best returns to the winners enclosure with Tommy Berry up.
If you are wondering if we saw any of the beaches – we did – see below,
Trish on a deserted beach in Byron Bay.
Finally, on returning to Hong Kong we visited Sha Tin – a fantastic racecourse with a gigantic screen.
Sha Tin is a very clean and modern racecourse, the attendance on this Sunday afternoon was 26,000 and the Tote turnover for a ten race card,
all handicaps, was £133,608,000.
The feature race – the Tin Shui Handicap, was over 1200 metres for horses
rated 85-100 and carried £192,000 in prizemoney.
Interestingly, there were very few Europeans in Hong Kong, either in the hotels or, at the races. Even so, it would be hard to find more enthusiastic and dedicated set of punters anywhere in the world!