By Seth N. Stone

Those who’ve never been, dream of one day making the pilgrimage. Those who’ve been wonder when they can return. To those who live here and follow it religiously, understand how it’s played and who matters and always know what’s been said because all the back stories from the rumour mill add a certain amount of spice to the main course, they are only too happy to share.

This need to share is a very different kind of 12 Step programme. Instead of reading from The Big Book of Bill, it’s reading about form, studying past races, seeing who’s riding what and for whom and knowing the lessons for the day ahead. To us, not knowing what to expect, it’s about expecting the unexpected and going with the flow.

Roll up, roll up to the Magical Mystery Tour of horse racing in Hong Kong- a carnival and twice weekly celebration of being able to live in a different space and time for around four hours and get away from the mundanity of life.

It’s cameras, action, colour, and excitement where modern day knights do battle on their mighty steeds. The cynics will disagree, but to the outsider looking in, there’s something poetic and balletic to it all.

On Sunday at Sha Tin racecourse in Kowloon, there was the running of a race called The Hong Kong Classic Mile- an important race that the night before while having dinner at a hotel’s restaurant, we were told by the waiters serving us and the bartender at our next port of call how only one horse could win it. They were all correct.

Nothingilikemore won the race according to script. We didn’t get rich with what we wagered on it, but racing in Hong Kong is not about getting rich. It’s about the joy of winning. There’s a difference.

Whether the man on the street who has the opportunity to be part of this on-course experience and horse racing community for a few hours, or the wealthy Chinese horse owners who pay millions for horses they hope can win them the big prestigious races, it’s about oneupmanship. To the Chinese, it’s all about what’s called “face”. No one wishes to lose “face”. Lose anything else, but never lose “face”.

If U2 has Edge, the Gunners have or had Slash, if Police once had Sting, and the Beatles had a Ringo, Hong Kong racing has the Magic Man, the Zac Attack, the Durban Demon, and the Mauritian Magician- brilliant riders from the backstreets of São Paulo, from the land Down Under, from South Africa, Ireland, France, Italy and, of course, Hong Kong.

It’s like Star Wars with everyone trying to be a Jedi master in each of the ten races. With their wives and girlfriends and living a lifestyle few can imagine in the goldfish bowl that is Hong Kong, it’s a Netflix series waiting to be written.

As a horse named Conte won the last race of the day for the Brazilian Magic Man, our guests were already making plans for our next visit to the races- this time at the Happy Valley racecourse on Hong Kong island this Wednesday.

These races are for a younger and more international crowd in what has to be one of the most unique settings for a racecourse.

Attending a Happy Wednesday evening here had already been on our bucket list and came highly recommended by the hotel concierge and everyone whom we asked about what’s there to do and where’s there to go in Hong Kong.

As we said, horse racing in Hong Kong is not about getting rich. It’s about the thrill of winning and being able to talk about it. And later that night when returning to the same restaurant as the night before, we shared with everyone around us what was a winning day. We gained much “face” in the process.

#hkracing #hkclassicmile #nothingilikemore #hongkong