Wednesday night race at Happy Valley is an experience every racing fan must consume. This being the night of the International Jockey Championship, the air about the place was even greater. Prior to this night, our only visit to The Valley came on a steamy late June evening in 2010. The electricity has not been dulled, whatsoever. Bands, the beer garden, an overwhelming number of expats mixing with locals, dressed in all manners, and simply enjoying the night out at one of the few truly “open” spaces in Hong Kong.
Wherever you may hang your hat in this world, chances are someone at Happy Valley does as well. Before the fifth race of the night, we chatted with proud Vancouver, Canada native Andrew Rideout, a snappy racing app developer and strategist. The three fellas to our immediate left, well lubricated with the malted beverage of their choice, also happened to be from Vancouver (which is just 6,300+ miles away). If Heineken is your fancy, enjoy. Or San Miguel. Or really just about anything. The hospitality areas, restaurants, suites, public enclosures, and the apron are vibrant and engaged in the action. Unlike some of my experiences with youthful exuberance at a race meeting, near everyone has a bet at The Valley – it’s just what you do. The main bandstand on the apron is directly across from the outdoor betting windows. It just works.
Happy Valley racing, far from top class in terms of equine credentials, outhandles racing at Sha Tin, a 25 minute drive to the north. The total turnover for the day exceeds that of the Breeders’ Cup or Kentucky Derby – two mammoth days of tote action in America.
Early in the evening, local pop star Aaron Kwok, a brand ambassador for Longines, helped the HKJC launch their new Racing Touch iPad app. Free to download for HK-based Apple accounts, the app is the most comprehensive horse racing product we’ve witnessed on a mobile device. Every horse in HK is digitized, with markings true to their actual physical composition. Full form information, replays from their most recent start, preferred running style, trainer and jockey statistics, and much more fill the app without coming close to overwhelming the user. The speed map, a uniquely Australasian concept offered in form from those jurisdictions, is also available, as are strategic suggestions based on preferences you look for as a punter.
Demoed this app by representatives of the HKJC, we viewed the opportunity as holding the future. Data collected by the HKJC and printed over and over is handily contained within your own device, compatible to iPad 2, 3, 4, air, minis (with or without retina displays), and surely any new developments ahead. Want to translate your review into a bet – fund your account at an information kiosk which connects to iPad and it’s done. Drag your horses for the appropriate bet type and submit. Developed racing jurisdictions could try to duplicate this but would surely run out of funding or patience in attempting to match what the HKJC has managed with Racing Touch. It is simply superb. A story was relayed to us earlier in the week which cited an HKJC official reiterating that the club provides the local government with roughly 17% of its total tax income – yes, the HKJC.
Comparing racing in HK to any other top flight jurisdiction is a futile task, and one surely to frustrate executives in those locales. The culture of racing in this Special Administrative Region is unique.
HERE, find Thursday’s Trackwork Report courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club