OUR MEMORIES
Hong Kong Race Club 1945


Proven Worse Wooden Horse

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1945 Shōwa 20

Just before the last year of Japanese occupation, odd and mixed phenomenons appeared under the Hong Kong Race Club.
Large crowd of racegoers still be loyal attendants.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

Hot favorite led all the way but was sensationally and dramatically beaten on the post by half a length.
Cash Sweep tickets were regularly all sold out.
Pari-mutuel records were broken again.
But the programmes were shrinking again.

 

 

RECORDS

 

1945
The ponies died off and the events petered out early.
At that final flutter the wooden horses provided a dividend spree.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

 

1945-01-07
The programme included a trotting race over 400 metres.
There were 15 entries, at weight for inches, and eight started. MA CHIU (ex-TROPICAL LOVE) was first past the post, but was disqualified for “breach of rules”.
So were six others, mostly for breaking into a gallop. SING CHIN, who finished fifth, was considered to be the only pony that had really trotted, and was given the race.
The programmes now regularly offered only five races.

 

1945-01-16
US military documents have revealed that a 2,000-pound second world war bomb that brought chaos to Happy Valley racecourse on that day was dropped during a huge one-day pounding of Japanese positions.

 

1945-01-21
Only three races were run.
An air raid caused abandonment of the rest of the programme, and the patrons were left to sweat it out in the stands.

 

1945-02-04
To escape the raids, Meeting was set for the forenoon, at 11 a.m.;
but heavy rain fell, and the attendance was poor.

 

1945-03-04
the Meeting reverted to the afternoon, at 1.30 p.m.

 

1945-03-18
In the last Special Sweep the prize reached ¥156,000.
Meetings were now again held weekly.
Only 39 ponies were available, however, and fields were always problematical.
To ensure filling, the Club abolished all classification.
Owners made blanket entries, and their ponies were allotted to races by the Programme Committee.
In no race were there now fewer than three runners, nor were there often more than four.

 

1945-03-25
Only 14 ponies raced, two in the first event and three in each of the other four.
There was a heavy decline in the betting and dividends were poor.

 

1945-04-01
16 ponies were presented in five races.
One jockey won three and was second in another, having no mount in the fifth.
Another pony went lame and was destroyed; and another was destroyed later at the stables.
Racing distances were reduced —to 800 and 1,000 metres.
This, it was explained, was “to conserve the energy and strength of the ponies now available”.
Before the War, some of Hong Kong’s sports clubs had provided their members with “indoor racecourses” for evening gambling.
The “track” consisting of taut sloping wires whereon little wooden horses, fret-sawn from three-ply, moved by their own weight.
A suggestion that the Race Club supplement the live racing with these toy tight-rope slides was adopted.
The wires were strung on the terrace in front of the stands and members were notified that 200 wooden horses would be available, at a cost of ¥200 each.
The wooden miniatures, in galloping poses and complete with jockeys in colors, were 15-1/2 inches long by 8-1/2 inches high.

 

1945-04-15
Meeting with six races were listed, one a weight handicap, two distance handicaps, and three for wooden horses over 20 metres.
There were 12 entries for the first miniature race, and the experiment was moderately successful.
The Meeting was further memorable for the introduction of WOR NGAU to the racing public.
WOR NGAU (The Snail) was a tiny pony, 10.3 hands high.
A Japanese Army officer had ‘captured’ him and taken him to the Dairy Farm, where he was abandoned.
He was entered in the first race, a handicap over 1,200 metres in which there were five starters.
He was greeted with much laughter and was immediately popular.
The newspaper report states that he ‘was given such a generous handicap (350 metres) that he finished fourth’100 metres behind the winner who started on 110 metres.

 

1945-04-22
The next Meeting, WOR NGAU was entered in a 1,750 metres race and was given 450 metres.
Like the rest, he was to carry 140 lbs.
He did not appear to have started.
The race was considered to be a certainty for the redoubtable KAM SE.
This Japan pony, however, again ‘suddenly decided to slow its pace when only half the way was completed’
Thus allowing KWOK KWONG on 190 metres to get home first and pay a dividend of ¥111.10.
Protest broke out.
It was alleged that KWOK KWONG had started from the 210 metres mark.
“Nothing, however, was done in this matter” said the reporter.
Of the eight races at that Meeting, five were for wooden horses.
There were very few live ones still fit to race.

 

1945-04-29
An ominous note appeared in the publicity for the Meeting:
“The Twelfth Meeting on Sunday, April 29, may possibly be the last one for some time, as the Club’s officials have decided to discontinue further Meetings in order to avoid incurring further loss, according to the Chairman of the Race Club.”
Attendances, the spokesman said, had become poor, and insufficient to meet expenses.
The decision, however, would rest with the authorities.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

1945-05-13
No official announcement was made in English, but a small paragraph appeared in the newspaper draw the curtain.
The report said that winding-up proceedings were being carried out at the Race Club by a skeleton staff of about 40.
There were about 30 ponies belonging to members.
Again, the disposal of which was being left to the authorities.
Later, one of the stands was used as a kennel for Japanese police dogs.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

Third Nationals, Sangokujin, is a Japanese anachronism term referring to her ex-colonial nationals of Korea and Taiwan in the aftermath of World War II.

 

When the food shortage became acute, prisoners of war were brought over from Shamshuipo camp to dig up the centre of the course near the Black Rock, for the cultivation of vegetables.

 

 

RELATED LINK

 

Video Showcase
Photo Gallery

 

 

Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah for relevant content.

 

 

 


 

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