Ruler Minister Administrator
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 expatriates.
Members of the Hong Kong Club, including officers of the armed Services and a strong group of Germans.
Subscribers imported their own mounts, but they elected a committee of Stewards.
They arranged and conducted the Annual Race Meeting.
Soon, on the leased ground at Happy valley, primitive matsheds were built.
They were principally the grandstand, flanked on its left by extra stands and on its right by a block of stalls for the horses.
Forming a second storey over the stalls were boxes for the owners, who, of course, included all the Stewards.
These are some of the historical anecdotes related to Stewards:
His Excellency Sir Hercules Robinson (1859-65), a young man of 35, was said to have been rebuffed by the Stewards when, ‘without benefit of formalities’, he sought ex-officio privileges at the races.
Almost continuously throughout the history of Hong Kong racing there has been at least one Jardine man among the Stewards of the Club.
Governor Henry May mentions Mr W. Keswick as a Steward in his 《Notes on Pony and Horse Racing in Hong Kong 1845-1887》.
Seven army officers were appointed as stewards.
Mr Master thought there should be no more than three honorary members — the Governor and the senior Naval and Military Commanders.
An interesting comment by a local racing reporter was not recalled.
He had written (in the Hong Kong Daily Press):—
“We may here remark that it is highly objectionable that any person should be allowed within the Judge’s box during a race, as such practice is not in accordance with custom and racing rule.”
Finally, Rule 9 alone was amended, to make Service officer members eligible for election as full Stewards.
According to Governor Henry May 《Notes on Pony and Horse Racing in Hong Kong 1845-1887》page 34, in response to a alleged indecent race:
“Stewards of the Hongkong Jockey Club, continue to be animated by the keen desire they have hitherto exhibited of providing racing as a sport to be indulged in by men, who are sportsmen by nature and education, for the sake of sport and not as a mere medium of gambling.”
1883-02-24, the Ambassador Cup, an alleged indecent race involved a dispute between Stewards and Mr Fraser-Smith, the Hongkong Telegraph editor and proprietor.
At the regular meetings of members in HKJC’s earlier times, the Chairman was a different Steward almost every year.
The system became stabilised.
The Hon. C. P. Chater,presided, and thereafter as Senior Steward he was in the chair every year when he was in the Colony, until his death in 1926.
Mr Fraser Smith objected items like $138 for the Stewards’ Annual Dinner, “out of the funds of the Club.”
A surprising contretemps was encountered when Service members of the Club took exception to an old rule (Rule 9) which laid down that:
“The Stewards shall be chosen by ballot from among the resident members of the Club not being Officers of the Army or Navy”
“Officers co-opted to assist as Stewards at the race Meetings had always been made honorary members; but it appeared that no Service member had ever been elected as a Steward.”
Mr G. C. C. Master pointed to Rule 10, which provided that the Governor and the Senior Naval and Military Officers, “and such other persons as the Stewards in their discretion thought fit, should be invited to become honorary members of the Club and to act as Stewards during the racing season.”
Major-General Black observed that the amendment could not operate in time for the race Meeting; and he suggested that some gentleman might allow himself to be nominated as a Steward and then retire to allow a military officer to take his place.
Apparently no one responded to the suggestion; but Colonel The O’Gorman was invited later to be an honorary Racing Steward for the Meeting, and in the following year he was elected to be a full Steward.
The Hon. F. H. May as Vice-Chairman presided over a large attendance — and gave the members a convincing lesson in debate.
The Stewards had always jealously guarded their authority and were vigilant against encroachment.
They insisted that control of the course and of racing was their province.
Members were not encouraged to propose resolutions on these matters; they could only make respectful suggestions.
That year the Stewards had supposedly proceeded in their “accustomed manner”, arranging the programme for the next race Meeting.
An extraordinary meeting of members was held to amend a Rule — to permit visitors to ride (with written permission of the Stewards).
Previously visitors invited to ride had to be made members of the Club, and time did not always allow this.
1914-08-04 came the WWI, before that German residents had participated in Hong Kong racing from the earliest years.
There was always at least one German member among the Stewards.
An amended rule 38a reading in part:
Any member who is the subject of a nation between which and Great Britain a state of war exists . . . shall “ipso facto” cease to be a member of the Club . . . but it shall be lawful for the Stewards “on the written application of such member” after inquiry “to restore his name to the books of the Club.”
The total of Stakes and Prize-money was reduced, the Chairman explaining, “Your Stewards, having in view the intention to devote substantial sums to charitable purposes, deemed it advisable to somewhat reduce this item.”
His Excellency ascended to a more paternal plane and was Patron of the Club.
The Service Chiefs remained as Honorary Stewards.
The Stewards became Voting members automatically. The assets belonged to all members whether Voting or otherwise.
Members being confirmed after 31st December, 1923, could only become Voting members as vacancies occur, by invitation of the Stewards and on payment of $25.
Stewards were given power to refuse permission to any member to ride should he have participated either as an owner or a rider on an unrecognised course or at a meeting conducted by an unrecognised club.
1931-05-27, at the half-yearly meeting of HKJC members, Mr Ho kom-tong expressed the members’ appreciation of the work of the Stewards.
He suggested that they should receive fees, like the Directors of companies, whose work was less arduous.
Chairman Mackie thanked Mr Ho, but said, “In this Club, and in every other club I know of, the work of the Stewards in the nature of things must always remain a labour of love.”
Besides Chairman Pearce, three other Stewards who gave their lives in the War were Sir Vandeleur Grayburn (HSBC Chief Manager), Mr D. C. Edmondston (HSBC Manager) and Mr G. G. N. Tinson, M.C., (well-known lawyer, of Johnson, Stokes and Master).
A record of the minutes of a meeting of the surviving Stewards, held in the internment camp at Stanley on 1942-02-09.
For one Meeting, five cups were presented on 1946-01-01, including the Stewards’ Cup.
Stewards were being urged to use cinema cameras instead of the spotters in the towers.
The suggestion was eventually adopted and in that year six cameras were installed.
The employment of spotters was discontinued.
The Honorary Stewards included both the Chief Justice and the Colonial Secretary.
1970-05-25 at a meeting of the Stewards, Peter Williams suggested that there be a study and report on the feasibility of introducing professional riding.
He advised HKJC to establish its own riding school for young apprentices, based on the lines and models of the Japan Racing Association.
His vision led to a new directions charted by the Stewards.
Acknowledgment to HKJC Archives, Hong Kong Racing Museum for relevant content.