Hong Kong Horse Racing Is Serious Business

Founded in 1884, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is one of the most treasured—and lucrative—legacies of Britain’s colonial rule over the city. Its emerald turf attracts about HK$138.8 million (US$17.86 million) per race, more than any other track in the world. Photographs by Justin Chin for Bloomberg.

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    The Hong Kong Jockey Club enjoys a monopoly on horse racing wagers, lotteries and football betting; in return it is Hong Kong’s largest taxpayer, giving the government 72.5 cents on every dollar of its winnings in taxes.

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    About HK$108 billion ($13 billion) was bet during the 2014 to 2015 racing season.

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    Wednesday night races are held at the Happy Valley Race Course in the heart of the city, in what was once a swampland.

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    The HKJC is the first racing club in the world to employ advanced-odds calculations for betters.

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    Trainers ride horses during an early morning workout on the all-weather dirt track at the Sha Tin Racecourse, another racing venue in the northern part of the Hong Kong.

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    Bath time at the Sha Tin Racecourse is sometimes a challenge with highly strung thoroughbreds.

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    Thoroughbred horses, which can cost millions, are pampered at the club’s grooming facilities.

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    Employees guide a horse up a ramp from an equine swimming pool.

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    And now it’s time to be led back to the stables.

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    The HK$25 million (US$3.22 million) Hong Kong Cup race is the most lucrative 2000-meter turf in the world.

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    Spectators scrutinize racing forms in hopes of beating the odds where the minimum bet is just HK$10.

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    There’s always a festive mood at the outdoor stands during Wednesday night at the races in Happy Valley.

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    Behind the scenes, HKJC staff prepare for the next race.

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    Punters sit with copies of newspapers on the stands at Happy Valley Racecourse.

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    The final seconds of any race are filled with suspense.

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    Racing inspires passions of all kinds, especially when your horse comes in first.