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You have to go horse-racing in Hong Kong

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Sha Tin racecourse

Sha Tin Racecourse is one of the two racecourses for horse-racing in Hong Kong. It is located in Sha Tin in the New Territories and is managed by Hong Kong Jockey Club. Photos: Shutterstock

Sha Tin Racecourse is one of the two racecourses for horse-racing in Hong Kong. It is located in Sha Tin in the New Territories and is managed by Hong Kong Jockey Club. Photos: Shutterstock

In hindsight, it was a bad decision. But hindsight decisions are often bad. And what bucket list experiences don’t cost you money?

I was between meetings in Hong Kong. In that limboland all business travellers know. That potential paradise. That in-between state. That sliver of filling called leisure time squeezed in between the sandwich called work.

I could have done anything with my spare time. I could have invested it far more wisely in some contemporary Chinese fine art or a nice custom-made, low-slung Holland & Sherry cloth 24-hour business suit. With an Egyptian cotton shirt or two.  I could have had a fitting at the famous Sam the Tailor’s on Nathan Road where all the stars go.

Or maybe I should have gone shopping and bought my wife some affordable appreciating attractive jadeware or some very dodgy but nice-looking decorative opals.

I could have spent my valuable money and time more profitably on seeing the giant Buddha on Lantau island and visited a fishing village on stilts or gone on a sampan ride and peered into fishing boats. I could have tried out the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant, an Abalone buffet and all the other gastronomic delights on offer in the self-proclaimed “most vibrant city in the world”. I could have ridden on the world’s longest escalator.

But: no. I went to the races instead. To take part in the weekly Chinese parade of losers. That is Sha Tin.

Hong Kong’s skyline at night. The city is a major tourist attraction with more than 30 million visitors every year. The Symphony of Lights is a daily light and sound show.Hong Kong’s skyline at night. The city is a major tourist attraction with more than 30 million visitors every year. The Symphony of Lights is a daily light and sound show.

2018 is the 130th anniversary of the Peak Tram and 120th birthday of the Star Ferry. The ferry service was actually started in 1870 when Grant Smith offered a twin-screw wood-hulled boat for fare-paying passengers. The first official cross-harbour ferry operated by the Kowloon Ferry Company (founded 1888) was the Evening Star.

There were nearly 150 crossings a day. Now 26 million passengers travel the seven minutes. It must be the only ferry in the world where you can be upgraded to the upper deck.

The iconic double-reversible funicular system is 1,365m long. It takes seven minutes to get to the top of Victoria Peak. At its steepest the line is 27 degrees to the horizontal causing skyline to lean rather disconcertingly.

Once the tram accommodated three classes. Until 1949 a brass plaque was fixed to the first two varnished timber seats. It read: ‘Reserved for His Excellency, The Governor’.

The iconic double-reversible funicular system is 1,365m long

When you are in Hong Kong, as well as witness the nightly Symphony of Lights Show, you have to pay your respects to its tailors, ferry, tram and bookies.

This year is also the 40th anniversary of the opening of Sha Tin racecourse.

You have to go horse-racing in Hong Kong. Happy Valley is perhaps the most historic and best known track. It has staged races since 1846. The night-time meets are every Wednesday and Thursday.

Sha Tin turf-and-all-weather racecourse was built on reclaimed land in 1978 under the supervision of Sir David Akers-Jones, then secretary for the New Territories. The course’s stages nearly give 100 races a year. Over $100m’s worth of bets can be placed in one day. The top races are the Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Gold Cup (February), Hong Kong Derby, Queen Elizabeth 11 Cup (April) and Champions Mile, held every May.

The Peak Tram in Hong Kong is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year.The Peak Tram in Hong Kong is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year.

Despite all the whispers, I didn’t win one hexagonal HK dollar in nine races. And my pain and embarrassment were intensified for having to watch my humiliation on the world’s largest racing ‘viewing display’ screen – the equivalent to 4,500 TV sets – and seeing replayed and replayed over and over again my trackside investment accrue exactly 0.0 per cent of profit growth over the course of three long, humid hours in the steep, banked, packed, noisy grandstands of always memorable Sha Tin.

My torn betting lottery transaction record vouchers blew symbolically like cormorants on the wind after every 1,400 and 1,600m race. The local tipsters were no good and didn’t come up trumps. I relied on the collected thoughts of Murray Bell, Alan Aitken, John Bell, Vincent Wong and Shiham Ramies for the first three races. But Floral Pegasus didn’t come through and neither did Stitch Up or Romantic Winner.

The Star Ferry is a passenger ferry service operator in Hong Kong which transports passengers across Victoria Harbour on its sail boats. It celebrates 120 years this year.The Star Ferry is a passenger ferry service operator in Hong Kong which transports passengers across Victoria Harbour on its sail boats. It celebrates 120 years this year.

I turned to the jockeys. But the great TK Ng let me down as did HK Yim and I was all wrong on CW Wong. As a consequence all my All up Quinellas didn’t pay a black bean and My Cross Pool All Up For A Win suffered the same fame as my Six Up. And as a consequence I didn’t celebrate in the winners’ enclosure but sulked in the losers’ enclosure. The gents.

I tried the trainers next. But Ricky Yiu form proved delusionary and Gary Ng didn’t turn up at the races. So I lost on the University Road Handicap and the Crescent Pond Handicap. And I lost on the Alumni Trail. As well as the Chung Chi Road All Comers’ Pelt. The Hong Kong Jockey Club gratefully my money.

In the land of the rapidly knocked up business suit and the place with the world’s highest density of tailors I had disgraced myself and let myself down.

I had, quite simply, lost my shirt. But it has to be done. Whatever hindsight tells you.

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