Horse racing in Hong Kong is followed far more passionately than just about anywhere else in the world. Racetracks like Hong Kong’s Happy Valley are regularly packed to the rafters, boasting an electrifying atmosphere that is rarely replicated on other racetracks in England, France or the US. Expect enthusiastic gambling, enthusiastic cheering and plenty of beer to wash it all down with.
In all honesty, Hong Kong’s obsession with the horses is more an obsession with gambling, however with some of the world’s best tracks, world-class race meets and a manic crowd a visit to the track is a must whether you want to gamble or not.
Those who are used to the refined atmosphere at English meets or the sober surroundings on American tracks will find the roaring Hong Kong crowd and humble approach an exciting shock to the system. The track is ringed by a bank of skyscrapers giving it a neon glow during night races and echoing the noise back on to the track. Happy Valley is simply one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles.
Aside from the gambling and the racing, Happy Valley is very much a social affair. Beer tents and makeshift hot-dog stands keep 40,000 people fed and watered, and much of the racetrack turns into the city’s biggest al-fresco bar. It's also cheap - far cheaper than the exorbitant prices charged in Lan Kwai Fong for a drop of beer.
Betting at Happy Valley
The owners of Happy Valley are The Hong Kong Jockey Club. They still hold a monopoly on racing and betting in the territory, a holdover from colonial days, and the HKJC is the territories largest taxpayer and charity.
The organizations privileged status is thanks to the average six million plus bets placed on each meeting, meaning a flutter for nearly every Hong Kong resident.You can find out how to navigate the many, many bets on offer with our Hong Kong betting guide.
Sha Tin vs Happy Valley racecourses
Happy Valley is head and shoulders above the other racetrack (Sha Tin) in Hong Kong.
The track at Happy Valley is banked by a wall of skyscrapers and with almost all meetings set at night this crowd of buildings forms a dazzling fence of neon for the evening’s excitement. Happy Valley also offers restaurants, bars, with some of the cheapest beer in the city, and a convivial mix of locals, expats and tourists. Entry to the ground is just HK$10.
When to Go
The Hong Kong racing season stretches from September to June. Race meetings are generally on Wednesday evenings in Happy Valley and Saturday afternoon in Sha Tin. You'll need to head to the stadium as road closures mean that public transport is almost packed with people. The best way to reach Happy Valley racecourse is on the Hong Kong tram which can be hopped on anywhere from Sheung Wan - Central - Wan Chai.
The minimum bet on races is a bargain $10, and all further bets are in multiples of this amount. You’ll find betting and form guide given out free at the track. There is usually around fifteen minutes between races when you can place a bet. You will find English speaking staff who can assist you if you need the rules of each individual bet explained.