OUR MEMORIES
Race Committee


 

 

Delegated Plenum; Dedicated Panel

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Race Committee was also named as Racing Committee in Hong Kong.

For 40 years, it was the management and administration to run the meetings before HKJC was founded.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

From 1845 to 1884, while a controlling body, with officials, was set up annually, there was no permanently constituted racing organisation.

Each year, racing men subscribed to the Race Fund, which was probably promoted by the foreigners.

They were members of the Hong Kong Club, including officers of the armed Services and a strong group of Germans.

Except a few Europeans such as those from Germany and Portugal, from the very beginning, nearly all members of the Committee were British.

The Committee consisted 3 categories: Race Fund Subscribers, renowned Bristish subjects and wealthy owners with runners.

Board of Stewards was elected with the Governor as patron and Taipans from big companies such as the Jardines chaired the board.

Subscribers imported their own mounts, and they elected a committee of Stewards, who arranged and conducted the Annual Race Meeting.

This, was the year’s only Meeting, usually lasting three or four days.

For some years the Racecourse remained a primitive arena.

The Racing Committee leased from the Government a grandstand enclosure, not large enough to include a paddock.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

In that era, key posts in racing were frequently filled by Military or Goverment Officials.

 

1844

Mr William Thomas Mercer, Private Secretary to the Colony’s second Governor, accompanied His Excellency (Sir John Davis) to Hong Kong.

 

 

1845

The Happy Valley racecourse came into being about ten months after the Hong Kong Cemetery had opened.

The deadly Wong Nai Chung Valley was drained and the cultivation of rice forbidden.

This left the ground free for other uses.

 

 

1846

Mr W. T. Mercer became Colonial Treasurer and later Colonial Secretary.

He was a member of the Race Committee.

Historian Patricia Lim on her 《Forgotten Souls: A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery》said:

Early in the year, the first references to the racecourse was dated in record.

A meeting was held at the house of Archibald Carter of the German firm of Hegan & Co. to consider measures for converting the valley into a riding ground.

Gilbert Smith who was in the chair offered to approach the governor to ask for the grant of a lease for a term of years.

“Notwithstanding the great improvements lately made in the roads of the Colony, during a great part of the year these are so hard as to be greatly prejudicial to a horse constantly exercised on them. Besides the number of foot passengers is such as to render it highly dangerous to put a horse to a quick pace:

while the nature of our climate renders this not only a favourite exercise, but at many times almost the only one which can be indulged in.

The undertaking therefore is one that cannot tail to be most beneficial to the health of the community as well as a source of innocent amusement, and we feel confident will be supported by the voice as well as the contributions of the public. “

So work commenced on a public recreation ground subscribed to by the community for the purpose of galloping their horses.

According to Susanna Hoe’s 《The Private Life of Old Hong Kong》, Hong Kong, therefore….

‘next winter Hongkong will have a race course and racing and other national and manly recreations will be introduced into the youngest British colonial possession’.

1846-03-17 The Hongkong Register marked that:

The first Hongkong Races came off in the Wong-nai-chung valley on the afternoons of Tuesday and Wednesday last.

However, some other records shown that the first race meeting was held there at the end of 1846.

Samuel Gurney Cresswell a midshipman on HMS Agincourt, wrote in a letter to his parents:

“Hongkong is very gay now. There are races on the 1st and 3rd of December and a race ball on the 4th. I have to ride a flat race on a most beautiful horse and a hurdle race on a very mere little pony …. I have a great deal of work to do getting ready for the races, exercising horses, getting jockey caps, whips, etc.”

 

1848

Augustus Carter, secretary, wrote a Notice on behalf of the Race Committee in the First Day of Racing Programme of 1848-02-01 Tuseday Meeting.

He might be a Jardine man because his name was recorded as one of the correspondents in Business letters of Jardine Matheson Archive.

 

 

1857

Her Majesty appointed a separate Plenipotentiary to China (Lord Elgin), leaving Hong Kong’s Governor to devote himself exclusively to this Colony.

In that year, Mr W. T. Mercer, became “the only remaining member at the time of the original Race Committee”.

The Farewell Flagon was presented by him.

It was won by Mr. Fletcher’s Sydney horse TARTAR (Mr. Stuart, Royal Engineer ) , Mr. Jardine’s ELPHIN (Capt. Clarke, 59th Regiment) being second.

 

 

1860

Sports flourished during this period, organized by the Race Committee.

 

 

1861

February, the Racing Club was also re-animated by the interest that Sir H. Robinson took in the annual races which closed with a Government House Ball in addition to the usual subscription Ball.

 

 

1862

January, Committee racing men were much stirred up by the question of excluding from the annual races all professional riders or jockeys.

 

 

1864

October, renewed excitement was called forth by a request which Sir H. Robinson addressed to the Racing Club Committee, to rail off a box in the Grand Stand for his own use at the next meeting.

After much discussion, this request was refused by the Committee as unusual and out of keeping with the democratic spirit and purpose underlying the national institution of horse racing.

 

 

1867

The Dents failed in a trade slump — wherefore the Dent name did not appear in the minutes of the Jockey Club.
In the absence of records it is difficult to discover what part they played in the management of the old Race Fund, but they were keen racing men who should involve in the Race Committee.

 

 

1880

Mr J. Thurburn, the Hon. Treasurer, was the Manager of the Chartered Mercantile Bank, a member of the Legislative Council later. He was Hon. Treasurer of the old Race Fund.

 

 

1884

February, run the last Annual Race Meeting organised by the old Racing Committee.

The following was the panel of officials:

Honorary Stewards:— His Excellency the Governor, Sir George F. Bowen, Vice-Admiral Willes, Major-General Sargent, Commodore Cuming, Colonel Walker, R.E.; Lieut.-Col. Crawford, R.A.; Lieut.-Col. Hobson.

Stewards: —

The Hon. Phineas Ryrie, the Hon. F. B. Johnson, the Hon. Thomas Jackson, the Hon. F. D. Sassoon, Mr W. H. F. Darby, Mr W. H. Forbes, Mr J. J. Bell-Irving, Mr G. E. Noble and Mr M. Grote.

Officials:—

Mr J. Thurburn (Hon. Treasurer), Major H. J. H. Tripp (Clerk of the Course and Secretary), Mr G. E. Noble (Judge) and the Hon. P. Ryrie (Starter).

In the autumn, at a meeting of what was usually called simply the Race Fund — meaning the subscribers to the previous meeting.

It was held at the City Hall, one of the agendas was decided to place ‘racing in Hongkong on a more stable footing by the formation of a Jockey Club.’

1884-11-04 Tuesday,《Hong Kong Daily Press》publicized the meeting held at the City Hall at 4 p.m. for the organization of HKJC.

1884-11-05 《Hong Kong Daily Press》reported the attendance list of the meeting of HKJC Formation, 34 gentlemen were presented:

Hon. P. Ryrie, Hon. T. Jackson, Hon. F. D. Sassoon, W. H. Forbes,, J. Bell-Irving, W. H. F. Darby, M. Grote, G. E. Noble, J. Thurburn (Hon. Treasurer), Major H. J. H. Tripp (Clerk of the Course), E. L. Woodin, R. Fraser-Smith, J. M. Guedes, J. Grant, J. J. Francis (senior Barrister), D. Ruttonjee. H. N. Mody (afterwards Sir Hormusjee), Paul Jordan, D. E. Sassoon, N. D. Ezekiel, R. A. Gubbay, Col. Hobson, L. Mendel, D. McCulloch, C P. Chater (afterwards Sir Paul), D. H. W. Sampson, W. Danby, R. C. Willcox, W. Legge, W. de St. Croix, W. K. Hughes, Major Cochrane and F. H. Slaghek.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

After the official formation of HKJC, historical functions of the Racing Committee was replaced by smooth transfer of club membership and related business.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

1886

Mr J. Thurburn, remained in that role of Treasurer for the Jockey Club until this year.

 

 

EXTERNAL LINK

 

Jardines – 《RacingMemories.HK》

Dents – 《RacingMemories.HK》

 

 

Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.

 

 

 


 

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