|Happy Valley Racecourse was built in
1845 on a marshland, as it was the only level land appropriate for horse
racing on the island. It was introduced primarily for the British
ex-pats living in Hong Kong, and subsequently became so popular, it is
now known as the "Sport of Kings", and is at present, the singular form
of legal betting in Hong Kong. In fact, the sport is so fashionable,
that for the period of the racing season, the route of road traffic
needs to be altered to accommodate the mass of fans.
One racing season, which is a total of nine months from September to
June, can collect more than HK$91 billion in bets. And that's not
including the other race track in Hong Kong, Sha Tin, which
predominantly hosts weekend meets.
Horse racing is the city's main recreational obsession and Happy Valley
race track mimics a Roman amphitheater with its taut tracks and elevated
stands, complimented by automated betting and races relayed live on
colossal 20 x 5.8m video screens surrounding the racecourse. There is
very little that can measure up to the electrically-charged milieu of
the track on race day.
The inaugural race meet took place at Happy Valley in December 1846, and
on 26 February 1918, the track was destroyed by a massive fire, claiming
the most number of fatalities in an inferno in the history of Hong Kong.
In 1995, the first-class horse racing course was rebuilt, bordering a
number of football, hockey and rugby fields.
In 1973, night racing commenced, and proved to be an instant success,
and in 1978, Hong Kong's second racecourse - Sha Tin was opened, funded
by the profits raised from the night racing at Happy Valley. One night's
betting collection at Happy Valley often rivals that of a complete
year's intake from a racetrack in the West.