It starts for many on Monday when the race card comes out. Of course, these are important to those who know their horses, riders, have a certain knowledge of stats etc. In turn, their interest in the racing at Happy Valley racecourse is passed along to their “community”, some of whom might not know a thing about horse racing, but enjoy a night out. Enjoy taking in a Happy Wednesday.

 

At least that’s how it works with my “crew”. It’s about having a “user friendly” fun night out- ‘live’ music, food, drink, being merry and horse racing being the glue that holds it all together.

Tuesday is seeing which of the troops are coming along and then gathering everyone the next day outside Entrance C of Happy Valley racecourse and going up to the second floor and the HKJC club Adrenaline.


No matter what anyone says about this and that race meeting here and there attracting “younger people”, none have the pulling power of a regular visit to a Happy Wednesday. Repeat: Regular visit- and a very international group of regulars.

 

Why? As in opening any restaurant, bar, club etc, it comes down to location location location.

Happy Valley racecourse is right in the middle of Hong Kong. It’s a ten minute tram ride away from everywhere. A twenty minute walk away from anywhere. And once through the turnstiles, you’re at the Beer Garden.

The vibe is immediate. My friend Camilla, co-founder of the wonderfully irreverent and gossip filled UK newsletter Popbitch, who’s new to Hong Kong and was recently at the races in Rio, describes a Happy Wednesday as “the heartbeat of Hong Kong.” How there’s nothing like it in the world. This week was her first experience of a Happy Wednesday.

For myself, it’s the perfect snapshot of cosmopolitan Hong Kong- a constantly changing city with different nationalities, different accents and each one different to each other, but many of who is its future come together here: A Happy Wednesday. It’s a magical mystery tour with no one quite knowing where the night’s journey will take them.

https://happywednesday.hkjc.com/en/stories-detail167.aspx

https://happywednesday.hkjc.com/en/stories-details.aspx?in_file=stories-20180815-1.html

It’s unlike any other day at the races because there’s no other racetrack like Happy Valley- iconic, historic and totally different to the city’s other racecourse in Sha Tin.

Each track also attracts very different regulars. Being in Kowloon and most of the weekend races there being on a Sunday, it’s not exactly easy to get those Happy Valley regulars to wake up early after a long Saturday night.

Am I a Sha Tin regular? Where’s the carrot? What IS the carrot when one can stream the races, perhaps use the Telebet account when the mood hits, and if not enjoy sitting outside at Spices, below, with friends and enjoying a long lunch?


At a time when Hong Kong nightlife has almost come to a standstill, or at least has “scaled back” due to spiralling rents, oversupply and demand and the old problem of how familiarity and not enough change breeds contempt, Happy Wednesday has become a brand- a brand that stands for fun, socialising actually face to face in the real world, and where ‘live’ music meets fashion and interaction where people get to know people and not a Facebook page.


Eight horse races every half hour bring a different type of entertainment value, especially for those who are unfamiliar with those thundering hooves and the excitement of seeing who’s first past the post.

Not for them are tips and tipsters and being schooled in reading the totalisator. No, these are newbies, many of whom are seeing horse racing for the first time, up close and personal- the riders taking their horses to the barriers, riders giving a high five to those standing by the edge of the Beer Garden, the excitement of a close finish and the thrill of winning.

“Who’s the jockey who won that race?” is the first hint of someone being interested in making this part of their pastime…and bring along friends to enjoy the ride.

If only this could be bottled: the thrill of winning and wanting to know more about who won.

It’s infectious without being addictive. More and more, for horse racing to have a future, it must head this way. There’s nowhere else to go except backwards. Or stagnate.

Here, it’s very different to the more serious side of horse racing at Sha Tin with its family tree of the usual super rich horse owners.

This really is a Happy Valley where there’s a Happy Wednesday going on with happy people. It’s also an adventure- a journey of discovery.

Apart taking the caravan of travellers through the good times of the Beer Garden, there are other meeting places at Happy Valley- Gallerie, Millions and the extremely popular Adrenaline- open to everyone for an entrance fee of $390 which includes a buffet, a free drink and ‘live’ music to fill in those twentysomething minutes between each race. The music continues for an hour after the last race has been run.

What’s also happening almost by osmosis is the evolvement and enhancement of the Happy Wednesday brand. There’s a Happy Wednesday family tree that’s growing- Hannah Butler who hosts the ongoing Fashionistas competition, Carnivale, the Latino band with Chris and Jordie at the Beer Garden and Jennifer Palor and the band with each member adding so much to the atmosphere.

There’s also new things happening- like the venues offering very good new Hong Kong talent like singer-songwriter Thomas Ngai with an audience for his music. He’s played guest sets at Adrenaline twice in the last month. It’s not going to stop there.

 

A Happy Wednesday is about flipping the old world of horse racing on its head- becoming the destination for fun in Hong Kong.

At the races on a Happy Wednesday, sure there are often some huge jackpots to win- the 6Up, the Triple Trio, Double Trio etc. But for the HKJC, the real winner could be its Happy Wednesday brand. We’ll bet on it.

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