Inaugural Event, Foremost Record
The Annual Race Meeting, for long the one Meeting in the year, was for many years held at the Chinese New Year, in the early spring.
To the festival spirit prevailing at this season may be attributed the retention, beyond the normal period of coming of age, of the picnic atmosphere at Happy Valley.
The inevitable formalisation has long come about, however.
Thereafter, racing in Hong Kong no longer differs much from racing elsewhere.
1846-01-27 was the first day of a year of the horse.
Comparing the Lunar Chinese New Year in January and the Race Meeting in March, the tradition could not be formed yet.
The pattern of fixture could be the inaugural meeting of Hong Kong Racing.
1846-03-10 Race Meeting
It might be one of the very first recorded documentations with exact ascertaining dates.
These were printed on a reproduction kept by HKJC:
The Hongkong Register
March 17th 1846
The first Honckong Races came off in the Wong-nai-chung valley on the afternoons of Tuesday and Wednesday last.
The weather was most favorable and the ground in excellent condition.
The Races were well contested, and excited much interest in the numerous parties who crowded to enjoy so unusual an exhibition.
It is much to be regretted that the high terms demanded by government should prevent a permanent riding ground being formed,
and the regular enjoyment of sports in which every one from the Governor downward seemed to feel so much attraction,
while Naval and Military Officers and Civilians joined in contending for the palm of victory.”
1846-12-17 and 18 Race Meetings
The 1846 Meeting was to be a two-day picnic, to be held on December 17 and 18; but no report of it exists.
Perhaps it was never held, for about that time the date of the Annual Meeting was changed from the Christmas season to early February (the Chinese New Year season).
Sir Henry May, Governor of Hong Kong from 1912 to 1919, compiled in 1909 some interesting “Notes on Pony and Horse Racing in Hong Kong”.
They have been quoted frequently by newspaper writers and post-prandial speakers.
In his opening chapter Sir Henry says:
“The Jockey Club records do not go further back than the year 1849, and the first mention of horse or pony races in Hong Kong that I have been able to find in the files of the local newspapers is in the China Mail of 10th December 1846, where it is announced that a Meeting had been fixed for the 17th and 18th December 1846.
No account of the races could, however, be found in subsequent issues of the paper. The numbers for 18th to 23rd December 1846 are missing from the files in the City Hall and Colonial Secretary’s Office. It may be that, those days being public holidays, there was no issue of the paper.
The Meeting of 1850 is, however, described in the China Mail as the Sixth Annual Meeting. It may be assumed, therefore, that the first Race Meeting in Hong Kong was held in 1845.
There has been a meeting in each year since that date.”
During the mid 1860s the Chinese New Year season had been Race Week in Macao too.