Despite the long day on Lantau Island we didn’t want to miss our next “must do”. So, we hopped on the metro to make our way down to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, otherwise known as Happy Valley.
Surrounded by a wall of skyscrapers in the heart of the city, it’s likely a lovely green space to overlook from a chic condo by day. That makes is a pretty exciting setting when the surrounding towers are lit up at night.
Aside from the gambling and the racing, Happy Valley is very much a social affair. As well as a few restaurants, kiosk-style beer and wine “tents” and makeshift hot-dog stands keep 40,000 people fed and watered. In effect on Wednesday nights the racetrack turns into the city’s biggest al-fresco bar. It’s clearly the place to see and be seen, especially among the young ex-pat community because those with non-Hong Kong passports get in free.
Dating back to a holdover from colonial days, and the HKJC is the territories' largest taxpayer and charity. The organizations privileged status is thanks to the average 6 million plus bets placed on each meeting, meaning a flutter for nearly every Hong Kong resident. Indeed, there are so many HKJC storefronts around town a person can just pop-in to place their Win, Place or Show bets rather than go to the track.
Had I understood the charity aspect at the time I think I would have been inclined to bet, though I am not a gambler on principle. Money raised by the Hong Kong Jockey Club operation through wagers at its two racecourses (Sha Tin and Happy Valley), betting on various football (soccer) games and via the Mark Six Lottery have been directed in large part to education. Since 2015, “This includes the needs of students who learn in different ways, at a different pace, or who require specialist learning support. It also covers the needs of students from different social, cultural and language backgrounds.” A nice fit for Duncan, to be sure.