Some of you may have noticed a new addition to the live racing portfolio available to UK punters, namely that of Hong Kong.
Not surprisingly racing in Hong Kong was introduced by the British in 1841 when they drained a swamp and built a racetrack at Happy Valley. Racing has thrived since then and has taken place at Happy Valley continuously except during the second world war. The management of the sport was taken over by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) in 1884 and the Club has been in control ever since.
Such was the popularity of the sport that a second course was built at Sha Tin in 1978. The course has both a turf and a dirt track and has a crowd capacity of 85,000.
The HKJC has the monopoly of betting in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and makes an extraordinary amount of money from it. As the HKJC is a not-for-profit organisation, all the profits from betting are donated to charities, mainly in the sporting, education and health areas. In 2014, these donations amounted to 3.6 billion HK dollars (approximately £360 million)!
Racing generally takes place on a Sunday and a Wednesday. These dates are occasionally changed or added to for special meetings or Bank Holidays. In general the Wednesday action is at Happy Valley while weekend racing tends to take place at Sha Tin.
The types of races on offer are similar to the British model. There are five classes of race, Class 1 to Class 5 with Class 1 being the highest. On top of that, there are pattern races, ie Listed, Group 3, Group 2 and Group 1. The pattern races can be for locally trained horses or international events where the cream of the crop race for fantastic prize money.
The average card is made up significantly of handicap races. In fact Happy Valley’s next meeting (on Wednesday 15th February) is comprised solely of handicaps, organised just as they are in the UK, ie a horse rated 80 will carry 5 pounds less than a horse rated 85. Yes the imperial weights system still lives in Hong Kong, at least as far as racing is concerned.
If you look down a racecard, you will recognise some famous names amongst the jockeys such as Neil Callan, Silvestre de Sousa, Nash Rawiller and Olivier Doleuze, which indicates the quality of the racing plus the draw of the great prize money on offer.
If the above has invoked an interest in betting on Hong Kong racing, then a deal signed between the HKJC and Ladbrokes, Corals and Betfred has made this very easy to do. You can bet direct into the local tote pools either at one of the UK companies’ retail outlets or on-line. Tote pools include win, place, quinella (first two in either order), tierce (first three in correct order) and trio (first three in any order) along with a number of more exotic options. And don’t worry about big bets affecting the payouts as the pools are huge and very strong so individual bets will not influence dividends.
Form is available from the Racing Post but if you are a keen studier then I have to recommend the HKJC’s website, www.racing.hkjc.com/racing/english. This will provide you with everything you need along with information you will want every other provider to give in future. The basic racecard provides such info as the horse’s weight (which can be compared in past performances), movement in handicap rating and equipment being used. Other information provided includes:
· Detailed race form (with video), this is set out in a similar fashion to US form.
· Details of track work (with video).
· Information on events that affected a horse’s previous run eg broke badly or hampered. It also provides details on explanations for improved performances.
· A form line report, which provides details of recent races where some of the horses raced against each other.
· An exceptional factors report, detailing gear changes, significant changes in trip and long lay-offs.
· Veterinary records including the dates horses were signed off and back into racing.
So finally a few pointers that may help you to find those winners:
· Look to the top trainers. John Size (current champion trainer), John Moore, Caspar Fownes and Tony Cruz have very powerful operations. But do look out for Y Tsui who does very well on the Sha Tin dirt track
· Similarly, look to the top jockeys. Very few jockeys record more than 10 wins in a season. Jockeys to look out for are Joao Moreira (current champion with 168 winners in 2015/16 from only 88 meetings!) and Zac Purton.
· Many of the races are over distances of 5 to 10 furlongs and, with the tight turns of Happy Valley, good gate speed and a good draw is important. If your fancy is not well drawn, then it is even more important to ensure you have a top jockey on board.
With horses running over only two courses, comparisons of performance are simplified and you can put more faith in sectional and overall timings.