OUR MEMORIES
Kwanti Racecourse


 

Historic Military Terrain

 

The name of Kwan Tei means “military place” in Cantonese.

Many people may know about the racecourse in Happy Valley, Hong Kong. They may not know there was another racing venue before the one built in Sha Tin.

 

The first record of female jockey and Ladies’ Day were held in Kwanti Racecourse.

 

Authentic Equine Ground

 

Kwanti situates on a plain surrounded by hills at its north and south, on the Sha Tau Kok Road in the New Territories.

The Road goes through the heart of Kwan Tei, connecting Lung Yeuk Tau and Sha Tau Kok.

Ng Tung River, Tan Sha River and Kwan Tei River are major rivers in the area.

Barracks were built by former British army. To the west of Kwan Tei, Gailiopi Lines (新圍軍營) sites near San Wai, a walled village north of Lung Yeuk Tau.

To the south, Burma Lines (皇后山軍營) sites on Queen‘s Hill (皇后山).

The Field Patrol Department of Hong Kong Police Force also sites near Queen‘s Hill.

The plain is fertile and suitable for farming. Kwan Tei settled various villages.

The Sha Tau Kok Railway (Chinese: 沙頭角鐵路) was a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge narrow gauge railway running from Fanling to Sha Tau Kok in the north-east border of Hong Kong.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

1918, HKJC’s field was indirectly extended at this time by the lease of a grazing ground at Kwanti.

This was done at the prompting of members who were also members of the Gymkhana Club, for the resting of their ponies.

It facilitated later the formation of the Fanling Hunt and Race Club, after the Gymkhana Club had gone out of existence and the gymkhanas had become official Extra Meetings.

 

1922, equestrian activities in the New Territories started with the Fanling Hunt, around that period.

 

1924, a grazing ground had been acquired at Kwanti in the New Territories, for the Gymkhana Club; and ponies from Happy Valley were sent out there to rest in the summer.

Much organized event such as The Hunt was started, and apparently occasionally strayed over the border during its activities.

 

1926-01-26, inaugural race of SteepleChase Meeting in Kwanti.

A group of enthusiastic racing men established the Fanling Hunt and Race Club at Kwanti (now Kwan Tei), Fanling.

Flat races, steeplechases, hurdles races and hunting activities were held.

They built the Kwanti Racecourse, located close to San Wai of Lung Yeuk Tau, a village area at the Northern part of the New Territories.

 

1927, The Fanling Hunt, now also a race club, had a bush course at Kwanti on the Shataukok Road.

Its Meetings, held on Sundays in the winter, were popular, the programmes including steeplechases and hurdle races.

They were helpful in encouraging and training young riders.

At an Extra Meeting at the Valley the unofficial Theale Plate was offered, for ponies hunted regularly with the Fanling Hounds.

 

1928, hurdle races started.

The races were not actually held at Fanling, but at Kwanti some miles to the east, off the road — in those days a track — to Shataukok.

There was a training track at Kwanti, where in an English country club atmosphere.

There were a number of activities throughout the year, and where owners sent their ponies to graze in summer, those, that is, who felt they could not run to sea-bathing at Tsingtao.

Up to a point the hurdle races were a success in an ambiance of this kind.

But the Club had run up against the problem that Chinese are simply not interested in jumping, certainly not as far as gambling is concerned.

Therefore, very few Chinese were to be seen.

 

1931, flat races started.

Finally the Club decided they must be practical and make more money.

One flat race per meeting was introduced. Chinese promptly appeared, and the Club’s financial position improved.

Edna Farr was among those who raced at Macao and Fanling.

Fanling was a lovely little course,’ she reminisced, ‘all grass, and with the wonderful hills behind. I think Fanling was very dashing, because in those days in England ladies could only ride in point-to-points. Of course I used to go racing at Happy Valley, and it was wonderful high up in the boxes and stands even in 1932.’

In Macao she rode for H.S. Yung, one of the leading owners, and had several wins. The ‘present’ on such occasions was a slap-up Chinese dinner given by Yung and his wife for all the lady riders on their return to Hongkong.

The country in the northern part of the New Territories, sparsely populated and open, was ideal for good riding, presenting a varied terrain and many unexpected obstacles.

The hunts sometimes went high into the foothills of Tai Mo Shan, and could be challenging — granite with a shallow topsoil is not the easiest thing to take on horseback other than at a walking pace.

Here the China ponies came into their own. They had an almost uncanny facility for getting across difficult country. In the Fanling hunts they were taken for granted until 1931.

W.L. (Bill) Stanton of the National City Bank of New York had a large bungalow at Kwanti, and by all-round agreement it became the clubhouse.

1931-09-18, Japan invaded and seized Manchuria, and the arrangements for procuring China ponies were thrown into disorder.

Hongkong, as usual, was hardest hit, being furthest away. Immediate recourse was had to Australia to obtain ponies.

 

1932 Ladies’ Races

1932-01-04 《Hong Kong Daily Press》reported a Ladies’ Race.

1932-03-20 a Ladies’ Mile race was reported with results.

 

1932, Hunan Stakes.

Two photographs depicting SUNNING – Winner of the Hunan Stakes, Fanling.

1932-03-21, Hong Kong Daily Press reported that Mr H P Rees, owner and rider of Hunan Stakes winner SUNNING passing the winning post with a hills as background.

SUNNING was shown at the right side of the photo, with the second runners-up GLORIOUS STAG 3/4 of length behind which was also owned by Rees.

 

 

 

SUMMARY

 

1950s, Kwanti racecourse was closed and the track was difficult to be identified.

As it had only been operated twenty years, there were only a few of images left behind.

Kwanti had the first record of Female Jockey and Ladies’s Day racing, among six racecourses in Hong Kong history.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

Pokfulam, Wong Nei Chung, Kwanti, Beas River and Sha Tin are the six racecourses in Hong Kong history of the first 150 years.

 

1938, Hunters and Hounds at Kwanti.

As shown from newspaper records, the hunters first met at Sheung Shui, passed through Fanling, Kwanti Racecourse, old Fanling railway station, Alec Hutton-Potts’ bungalow and finally arrived at the Kitten Hill and Dill’s Corner in Sheung Shui.

Hunting activities, organised by the Fanling Hunt and Race Club from the late 1920s to early 1940s, were usually scheduled during the Spring and Autumn seasons.

 

The Sha Tau Kok Railway was a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway running from Fanling to Sha Tau Kok.
1911-12-21 services was commenced from Fanling to Shek Chung Au.
1912-04-01 full line started to serve with stops as the followings:
Fanling (Interchange station for the KCR mainline)

Hung Leng or Hung Ling

Wo Hang

Shek Chung Au

Sha Tau Kok

1929-04-01 after 16 years, the terminus of Sha Tau Kok Railway was ceased to operate and was replaced by Sha Tau Kok Road.

 

 

 

RELATED LINK

 

female jockeys & Ladies’ Day – video showcase

female jockeys & Ladies’ Day – photo gallery

 

 

 


 

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