Swift Speed Spirit
Thoroughbreds are noted for their tremendous speed and athleticism while racing long distances.
The word “thoroughbred” is often used to refer to any selectively bred horse, but the term actually refers to the English breed developed in the 18th and 19 centuries.
All modern Thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to three stallions originally imported from the Middle East into England in the 17th century and 18th century.
Three Foundation Sires were BYERLEY TURK (1680), DARLEY ARABIAN (1700), and GODOLPHIN ARABIAN (1729).
Darley Arabian 11% and Godolphin Arabian 24% were once being estimated in Pedigree analysis for all thoroughbreds.
Besides those three of that period, there were other stallions imported from the east, traceable in the dame line.
In terms of appearance, the Thoroughbred resembles its Arabian ancestors.
Their distinguishing traits are refined head; long neck; sloping shoulders; deep body; fine long legs; strong muscular hindquarters.
The quadrupeds at the beginning of Hong Kong’s racing formed a mixed mob, ranging from big English thoroughbreds down to Australian Walers, Arabs and small ponies from several sources.
Except for an occasional unpremeditated contribution, when a mare has arrived here in foal, Hong Kong has never bred its own horses.
It has bought where it could; and over many years the local patron of the Turf has backed his fancy among blue-blooded English thoroughbreds, horses from overseas.
In the past, their dominance was not so prominent as Peking writer, Mr Collins, devoted a chapter to the China pony. To quote:
“If the Mongol pony is a midget he is an amazingly sturdy midget. He runs distances on the flat which average out to about the same as the English classics . . .but has to carry gentleman-jockey weights ranging from 145 lbs, to 160 lbs., as against the 126 lbs. carried by full-sized English thoroughbreds in the Derby.”
Thoroughbreds from England and South Africa were categorized in entries of races, though described as ‘horses’ differentiating with ‘ponies‘,
From the eras of racing marked by the Army and civil officers, the Dents and Jardines and later by the local and expatriate wealthy businessmen, thoroughbreds played a more and more important roles in China and not just in Hong Kong.
Books and Notes by writer Henry Ching, Austin Coates, Governor Henry May and even overseas newspapers in Singapore and Australia reported as such.
Several famous thoroughbreds being raced in Happy Valley were TARTAR, GOLDFINDER, KATHLEEN, SIR WILLIAMS, etc.
Australian thoroughbred dominated the early races in Hong Kong.
1788, the first horses, of mainly Spanish blood, reached Australia with the First Fleet.
1799, ROCKINGHAM, the first English thoroughbred stallion, was shipped from South Africa by a young naval officer named Henry Waterhouse.
1820, the influence was mainly from England, and each fresh arrival played his or her part in the steady improvement of the Australian stock.
1840s the Australian horse had made its mark at the races as far afield as Calcutta, Madras, Colombo, Singapore and Batavia.
For nearly a hundred years in Happy Valley Racecourse, Australian Walers, was gradually and eventually superseded by Australian thoroughbreds.
Australian thoroughbreds dominated the Hongkong races after WWII, was little short of phenomenal.
Japanese thoroughbred, as Steward and official Col. Dowbiggin added:
“Thoroughbred ponies had been bred in Japan for some years for racing there. The Japanese brought in a rule that no pony could race there after winning ten races. It was discovered that some of these ponies were being shipped across to Manchuria and after a short time there sold at ridiculously high prices to owners in Hong Kong as ‘griffins’. It was proved to the Stewards that in one year over $300,000 had been paid out by Hong Kong for such animals, which in many cases broke down very soon here.”
Since 1971-1972, only thoroughbreds have been allowed to race, and these are of a high standard.
Youngsters imported have included the progeny of such internationally renowned sires.
No matter a horse’s potential on breeding, however, nor what it may have achieved on other racecourses in the past, what counts in Hongkong is its performance in Hongkong.
On that score two horses have stood out since professional racing started.
PICCADILLY LANE (Irish) gelding SUPER WIN, which won 18 races between 1974-1977.
TOWN CRIER (English) grey gelding SILVER LINING (raced in Australia as VINTAGE MOON) which, racing between 1978-1982, became the first horse to win over a million Hongkong dollars.
Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah for relevant content.