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150 years of Happy Valley

More than one-and-a-half centuries ago, there was an area of swamp on the Island that even hardened British troops found uninhabitable. Known as Wong Nai Chung by the locals at the time, and euphemistically renamed Happy Valley, it has been the home of horse racing in Hong Kong since 1846. That was when a group of colonial equestrian enthusiasts decided it would make an ideal racecourse and had the swamp reclaimed and flattened for horse racing.

Initially the race meeting was usually scheduled around the Chinese New Year, when the racecourse would teem with racegoers from all walks of life, locals and foreigners alike, many with their children. In addition to the main spectator facilities in the grandstands, stands made of wood and matshed would be temporarily erected along the track to provide accommodation for the large number of local racegoers. In those days, the meetings at the Happy Valley Racecourse involved ponies and ‘gentleman’ amateur riders in the colony, as well as from cities along the China coast, like Shanghai, Tianjin and Fuzhou.

In early 20th century, racing at Happy Valley was flourishing. Gymkhana events introduced in the late 1890s continued as extra meetings following the annual spring race meetings. A breakthrough for Chinese racing enthusiasts came in 1926 when the Jockey Club opened membership to them for the first time. Racing was halted during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, and did not resume until after liberation and the city had recovered, in 1947. Since then, horse racing has continued to be one of the core entertainments of Hong Kong people. In the intervening years, the Club has rebuilt and added grandstands to meet the growing demand.

Another major development came in 1973 when the Club introduced night racing at Happy Valley. The floodlit inaugural event on 17 October was an instant success, and paved the way for regular night races on Wednesdays. Despite the opening of the Sha Tin Racecourse in 1978, Happy Valley remains the focus of racing in the city. Here was the place for morning trackworks; barrier trials; and new horses were also greeted here. After over 150 years, the valley is still the centre of horse racing in Hong Kong.


  • Happy Valley Racecourse, 1865

  • Happy Valley Racecourse, c. 1870

  • Happy Valley Racecourse, 1880

  • Grandstand at the Happy Valley Racecourse, c. 1...