Horse racing takes place on all continents and in many different countries around the world.
The success of racing in Asia has been exponential and Hong Kong has become a leading international racing jurisdiction.
Horse racing in Hong Kong is a hugely popular pastime, with large crowds attending the city’s two racetracks – Sha Tin and Happy Valley – each week of the season.
All betting activity in Hong Kong is managed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and each race meeting sees incredible betting turnovers of over £150 million.
Last season the HKJC recorded a staggering seasonal turnover of nearly £13 billion in bets on horse racing.
Hong Kong racing continues to grow and become more internationally focused.
The annual Hong Kong International Races meeting, held in December each year at Hong Kong’s premier track, Sha Tin, attracts some of the best equine talents globally.
There are four Group 1 races – Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Mile, Hong Kong Sprint, and Hong Kong Vase – each with a value of £1.8 million or more.
Here we look at each of those races in detail before offering some suggestions when betting on them.
There are currently no horse betting markets available on the Hong Kong International Races.
Horses for each race have just been declared so the best that can be done at this stage is to offer a few horses to look out for when the final fields are declared.
Loves Only You won the Hong Kong Cup last season for Japan and looks to have been prepped to repeat the feat, so is sure to be near the head of the market. If there is to be a challenge to his crown from his own country, then it could come from Lei Papale. This lightly raced three-year-old has won four of his six career starts. He flopped at 11/10 on his most recent run at Nakayama but could improve dropped back to this trip.
Panfield could be the best local challenger. A Group One winner when trained in Chile, he was steadily progressive last season in Hong Kong and landed a Group Two on reappearance this season.
French-trained Sealiway was an impressive winner of the Champions Stakes at Ascot in October and would be an interesting contender if the ground isn’t too quick for him.
Aidan O’Brien has many entries in this race, but Love could be an interesting one. This filly was withdrawn from the Arc because of the ground and the quick turf at Sha Tin would be sure to suit her. She would also come to Hong Kong a fresher horse than most.
This race revolves around Hong Kong superstar miler Golden Sixty, who has only been beaten once in 18 career starts at Sha Tin.
Francis Lui’s gelding won this race with ease last year, but that looked a weak renewal with many international horses not traveling to Hong Kong due to the pandemic and this year will be more of a test for the son of Medaglia d’Oro.
Japanese-trained horses are usually the biggest threat to the local runners in the Hong Kong Mile and they look to have a strong challenge again this year.
Schnell Meister has only run four times but already has the makings of a champion after his defeat of Danon Kingly at Tokyo in October. Both of those horses would be strong contenders.
Hong Kong has a new champion sprinter in the shape of Wellington, and the Richard Gibson-trained will probably start as favourite in this contest.
Australian sprinter Nature Strip brings a high level of form, with the former just getting the better of Eduardo in The Everest at Randwick in October.
Japanese raider Danon Smash was a surprising winner of this race last year, but their best hope looks to be the recent Nakayama Grade One winner, Pixie Knight.
Prix de l’Abbaye winner A Case Of You bids to become the first European-trained winner of the race.
Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa put in a huge performance in the Arc to finish second on the ground that wasn’t ideal for her and back on a faster surface at Sha Tin she would be a huge player.
2020 winner Mogul could well put up a strong defence of his crown.
Impressive Japanese St Leger winner Titleholder might spearhead the Japanese challenge, while Gufo is an interesting runner from the US.
Epsom Coronation Cup winner, Pyledriver, brings some of the best form into the race and is sure to be among the top fancied runners in the betting.
The Hong Kong Cup is the most valuable of the International Races, with a purse of over £2.8 million. It is also the oldest, with the first renewal taking place in 1988.
It is run over a distance of one mile two furlongs on the A Course at Sha Tin.
Hong Kong horses have had a good record in this race in recent years, winning six of the last 10 renewals. Japanese trainers like to target this race and they also have a good record with four wins in the last 10 years.
Hong Kong trainer Tony Cruz has won a record three Hong Kong Cups, while the rider with the most victories is a familiar name in Frankie Dettori.
Last year Normcore won for Japan after being given a brilliant waiting ride from four-time Hong Kong champion jockey, the Australian Zac Purton, to narrowly get the better of 2019 winner Win Bright.
The last UK-trained winner of the Hong Kong Cup was Ed Dunlop’s Snow Fairy in 2011. His filly had completed the Epsom and Irish Oaks double that summer and developed a love of racing in the Far East, winning the QEII Commemorative Cup at Kyoto in Japan before her success at Sha Tin.
The Hong Kong Mile carries a purse of £2.4 million and is run over a mile of Course A at Sha Tin.
This is another race where the ‘home’ horses seem to excel, winning seven times in the last 10 years, with Japan winning twice and one win for Australia.
You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find the last UK-trained winner of the race when Docksider triumphed for John Hills.
Legendary Hong Kong trainer John Moore won four of the last 10 renewals of this race before his retirement at the end of the 2019/20 season. Two of those wins (2017, 2018) came with the brilliant Beauty Generation, who for many years held the title of the best horse in Hong Kong and one of the best milers globally.
His rating of 127, achieved in 2018 when winning one of his eight Sha Tin Group Ones made him the join-best horse to have ever run at the track. He retired in 2020, after accumulating over £10 million in prize money.
Other notable winners include Good Ba Ba who won the race a record three times between 2007 and 2009, one top-rated horse in the world Able Friend, and the new Hong Kong champion miler, the impressive Golden Sixty.
The most recent addition to the International Races card, with the race being inaugurated in 1999. Running over six furlongs on the Sha Tin straight Course A, there is a purse of £2.2 million.
Asian and Southern Hemisphere horses have won all 21 renewals of this blisteringly quick race and European sprinters have been known to struggle if they take their chance.
Several horses have won two Hong Kong Sprints. Explosive Tony Cruz-trained sprinter Silent Witness won back-to-back races in 2003 and 2004. Japanese sprint sensation, Lord Kanaloa, who went on to sire the brilliant Almond Eye, was successful in 2012 and 2013.
More recently Hong Kong-trained Mr. Stunning triumphed twice in 2017 and 2018, before narrowly missing out on a three-timer in 2019.
The Hong Kong Vase is the longest of the International Races, running over one mile four furlongs of Course A at Sha Tin. It has a purse of £1.9 million.
This race is often targeted by trainers in Europe as a race for their top-class middle-distance horses.
Six of the last ten runnings have been won by European-based trainers, with two others going to Japan and only two wins for Hong Kong-based horses.
There have been some brilliant winners of this race since it was first to run in 1994. The Clive Brittain-trained Luso was the first British winner, when successful in 1996 and 1997.
Ed Dunlop’s brilliant race mare Ouija Board was an impressive winner in 2005 and the stable were successful again in 2012 with Red Cadeaux.
High-class French horse, Flintshire finished as runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Breeders’ Cup Turf of 2014 but deservedly got his head in front at Sha Tin later that year.
Aidan O’Brien holds the record for most Hong Kong Vase wins with three, all in the last ten years. His globetrotting Highland Reel won in 2015 and 2017, before Mogul’s triumph last year.
The draw is usually a key consideration when betting on racing in Hong Kong. While Sha Tin may not be as tight as the city course – Happy Valley – it still often pays to be in a low draw near the rail.
In the last 10 years, four winners of the Hong Kong Cup have emerged from stall 1, while only one winner has been drawn higher than stall 8.
In the last three seasons, there have been 16 races run over 2000 meters on Course A at Sha Tin, the Hong Kong Cup distance, and 65 percent of winners have come from stalls 1-5.
Over the distance of a mile, there were 35 races and over 50 percent of winners came from stalls 1-5.
There have been too few races run over 2400m – the Hong Kong Vase distance – to draw anything meaningful from, but past renewals of the race suggest a low draw is of less importance than in the other contests.
As mentioned, European-trained horses have an excellent record in the Hong Kong Vase, winning 18 of the 27 renewals of the race since it was first to run in 1994.
This is largely because horses in Hong Kong, Australia, and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere tend to be bred for speed and don’t have the stamina required for the one-mile four-furlong trip.
In contrast, European horses don’t have a good record in the Hong Kong Sprint, while locally trained horses have won 15 of the 21 renewals since 1999.
While many top international riders jet in for the Hong Kong International Races, race riding in Hong Kong has its idiosyncrasies and it can pay to stick with two local riders who know Sha Tin better than anyone – Zac Purton and Joao “Magic Man” Moreira.
Purton and Moreira have shared the Hong Kong Jockeys’ Championship in all of the last eight seasons and they have an exceptional record in the International Races as well.
Between them, they have won 15 of the International Races in the last 10 years, 38 percent of the four races, with Purton successful nine times to Moreira’s six.
For any horse race, the type of bet you place is an important consideration.
This is because every race market is different, due to the number of horses running and the odds of those horses. Knowing the best bet to place in different circumstances can improve your chance of winning.
Here are a few common horse racing bets.
A bet placed on one horse in a race.
There are different types of straight bets: win, place, and each-way bets.
There are two types of forecast: a straight forecast and a reverse forecast.
With a straight forecast, you select two horses to finish first and second in a race. They must finish in the correct order to win the bet.
With a reverse forecast, the two horses can finish in any order.
There are also straight and reverse tricasts.
A straight tricast challenges you to predict the first three horses in a race in the correct order.
A reverse tricast means your three selections can finish in any order.