Happy Valley is one of the most famous racetracks in the world and attracts a large number of visitors each year.
It is one of two racecourses in Hong Kong with mid-week racing under the lights proving particularly popular with racegoers. There is often a healthy mix of locals and tourists visiting the track. It is handily located, and close to public transport links.
There are a number of big race-days at the track with the Hong Kong Derby (held until 1979), Champions Day and the Turf World Championship all proving extremely popular. The course can hold up to 55,000 spectators and it is regularly close to full capacity during these standout events. There is a seven-storey stand, and the course is overlooked by a breath-taking cityscape.
It is located on Hong Kong Island, and is surrounded by the Wong Nai Chung Road and Morrison Hill Road. It is built on the only flat surface on Hong Kong Island.
The inner field is often used for other sports events with football, rugby and field hockey all played here on a regular basis.
Visitors can also visit the Hong Kong Jockey Club Archive and Museum which features four different galleries depicting various exhibits.
Happy Valley has a singular oval turf course which is around 1.37km in circumference. There is a running track built on the inside of the track. Races can be held up to distances of 1800metres which is around 8.9 furlongs. The home straight is between 310m and 338m depending on the distance.
Happy Valley History
Happy Valley has a long and illustrious history, and was opened in 1845. It was originally designed to keep the British settlers in Hong Kong entertained, although a mix of nationalities were attracted to the track during the first couple of years.
It was built close to Hong Kong Cemetery, on unused swampland. It was the only flat land on Hong Kong Island, and seemed the perfect fit for a racetrack and sports complex. The government prohibited rice growing in the area as they believed this would interfere with the completion of the complex.
The first race was staged in December 1846, and the track has hosted regular thoroughbred action ever since.
There have been a number of incidents over the years, some of which have caused locals to believe that the track is ‘cursed’.
In 1918, the temporary grandstand collapsed, and the falling structure knocked over a number of food stalls. This triggered a fire, caused by the bamboo matting, killing 590 people in the process. This still ranks as the worst man-made disasters in the country’s history. As it took place on Derby Day, there was a sizeable attendance, and unfortunately, this led to a higher death toll.
Permanent structures were put in place following this tragedy. These were made of brick and concrete.
There was further controversy in 2002 following the Kwai Chung Handicap. Stewards awarded the race to Exceptional despite De Integro being the first horse to pass the post. It triggered one of the biggest punter protests of all time.
“Rakegate” also made the news back in 2016 when a stray garden rake was found in the side of the starting barriers. It caused some of the starting gates to malfunction, meaning that some of the stall did not open causing numerous competitors to miss the start. They were left with no other choice than to void the race, which resulted in $126 million of refunded bets, and a fair share of embarrassment for the track officials.
Happy Valley Known Track Bias
Happy Valley is regarded as quite a fair track overall, although it’s always advised to consider the weather conditions when handicapping a race.
Following significant rainfall in the region, the inside rail can often be a no-go area, which negatively affects horses drawn on the inside. Rail-runners do tend to fare well at Happy Valley, and this is often a good starting point. However, wet weather can completely change the complexion of the race, particularly over middle-distances.
Happy Valley has a number of tight turns, and this tends to help frontrunners and rail-runners. Races held over 1000 and 1200m tend to be more beneficial for pace horses, and they can often get home over these distances without being caught. Horses drawn 1-4 tend to be favoured over the shorter trips.
Towards the end of the season (June/July), the turf is often fairly worn, and this is believed to favour horses coming from off-the-pace. The track does tend to show wear and tear throughout the course of the season, and it’s always advised to change your handicapping approach towards the end of the campaign.
Winning Post Positions
Races held over the 1000metres (approximately five furlongs) have seen a mixed set of results, although the inside stall was the most profitable. 13% of winners came from stall 1, with 11% drawn in stall 2.
There were some big field sprints held at the track although none of the 38 horses drawn in stall 13 were winners during the 2018-19 season. Stalls nine, ten and eleven also showed a poor return.
Races over the longest trip (approximately 1m 2/8 furlongs) also showed a slight bias towards the inside stalls, although there was a more balanced spread overall. Stall seven showed a return of 11% whilst stalls 1-4 accounted for just shy of 40% of winners over this 2200 metres.
The inside trips were also more prominent over the 1650metre trip, although a combined 18% of winners were drawn in stalls 13 and 14 during the course of the season.
Top Trainers at Happy Valley
There are a number of trainers who regularly send their horses to Happy Valley. The track also attracts Australian and UK handlers, although the majority of horseman are based in the local areas.
There are many trainers who can boast a tremendous record at the Hong Kong venue
Stats (2018-2019 Season)
- B Hutchinson (10% Strike Rate)
- Tony Millard (10% Strike Rate)
- P L Biacone (10% Strike Rate)
- A S Cruz (10% Strike Rate)
- John Size (11% Strike Rate)
- Caspar Fownes (13% Strike Rate)
- K H Ting (14% Strike Rate)
Top Jockeys at Happy Valley
Jockeys in Hong Kong tend to divide their time between Happy Valley and Sha Tin, and there are many riders who tend to thrive on the turf.
Stats (2018-19 Season)
- Walter Swinburn (19% Strike Rate)
- Joao Moreira (19% Strike Rate)
- R Romero (20% Strike Rate)
- W L Ho (21% Strike Rate)
- Aldo Domeyer (22% Strike Rate)
- A Cruz (32% Strike Rate)
- K Hung (33% Strike Rate)
- Thierry Jarnet (42% Strike Rate)
- Darren Murphy (44% Strike Rate)
Happy Valley Race Season and Key Races
Happy Valley stages regular racing between mid-December and late July. They tend to hold the majority of their meetings on Wednesday evening under the floodlights however there are a number of weekend meetings throughout the year.
There are a number of valuable races which take place at Happy Valley including The January Cup which is the only Group race held at the track. They also stage the National Day Cup, the Grade 3 Sa Sa Ladies Purse and the Chinese Club Challenge Cup.
Happy Valley Racetrack Address
Amigo Mansion, Wong Nai Chung Rd
Happy Valley, Hong Kong