OUR MEMORIES
Landmarks – Happy Valley Racecourse


 

 

Historical Value; Milestone Significance

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A landmark is a recognizable natural or man-made feature used for navigation, a feature that stands out from its near environment and is often visible from long distances.

In modern use, the term can also be applied to smaller structures or features, that have become local or global symbols.

Landmarks always bear the historical value and milestone significance.

 

The site of Happy Valley was not more than swamp land, but the only flat surface in Hong Kong Island.

Therefore it was the ideal location of the racing course by default.

Through the years, the city has built around the Happy Valley race course, and it is now practically surrounded by skyscrapers.

That is indeed a sight in itself, specially at night when the valley is illuminated.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

Landmarks around the racecourse have been popularized through the earliest media descriptions as the running mention way-stations.

The area now known as Happy Valley was formerly known as Wong Nai Chung Valley.

Wong Nai Chung referred to is a river collecting waters from the Wong Nai Chung Gap and surrounding area.

Accordingly, Wong is yellow, Nai is mud, Chung is a Creek.

 

Some of them were still recognizable or memorable up to quite recently, such as:

– “At The Black Rock”

– “At The Bridge”

– “Past The Football Club”

– “From The Garden”

– “At The Golf Club Pavilion”

– “Up The Incline”

– “Past The Stands”

– “At The Totalisator

– “At The Village Bend”

– “At The Yeung Wo Hospital Bend

 

They were added to the commentaries in printed or audio visual media.

Later,more were added such as the Stable Bend, 975 Bend, .. and so on.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Black Rock:

Several large stones and trees clustered and located inside the belt of the track, is an attractive place to watch race meetings.

It is almost like a trademark of Happy Valley.

As a vantage point it was very popular with Chinese, who swarmed all over it on race days.

At the Happy Valley races before the infield were closed, Chinese race-goers swarmed all over the Black Rock.

‘This,’ as an observant European pointed out, ‘showed racing judgment, for the Rock is the place where many races are lost or won (or very nearly) so that those who choose the Rock have an excellent view of the manoeuvring for position. It is an excellent place of vantage, too, from which to see the race from end to end.’

1862 the Barristers of the Colony gave a cup (100 guineas) for a race for horses from the Black Rock twice round and in, which was won by Captain King’s ESKDALE in 5 mins. 5 secs.

1945 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.

Riders or jockeys were thrown quite often and parted from their mounts at the Black Rock, a few had fatal consequences.

 

Bridge:

The water from the spring high in Wongneichong Gap flowed then between spurs in several channels across the Valley floor, to become Bowrington Creek.

1846 and later, imprisoned these streams in several converging nullahs, of which the Big Nullah ran down from the Blue Pool Reservoir.

A stone crossing was shown in many old time photos or art work, probably near where the Volunteer Headquarters before replaced by the HKJC Headquarter Building.

It is known to the Chinese as Goose’s Neck (later shrunk to nullah size as Bowrington Canal).

 

Football Stands

1929-11-09 Part of the oval course of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, being the end of the straight and the bend at the football stands.

1932-05-28 the Seventh Extra, at the start Mr Frost shot WOODLAND STAG into a long lead.

Mr Reidy then shortened in effortless fashion until, at the Football Stands. Reidy’s SEASON TICKET failed tragically.

 

Garden:

1850-02-04 “ Celestial Cup” value $150 presented by Mr. David Jardine for all horses ; weight 9 st. 7 lb. for Arabs and I I st. 5 lb. for Sydney and Cape-bred horses, from the Garden turn once round and in.

1850-02-06, a Cup presented by the Canton Community for Arab horses only (9 st. 10 lb.), from the Garden turn once round and in, was won by Mr. Jardine’s ST. ANDREW (Mr.Armstrong, 95th Regiment).

Near the end of the Village Bend could be the area of The Garden which later turned to “Happy Retreat” pleasure garden—which became the Yeung Wo Hospital.

Established in 1949, the Hindu Association took lead in securing land and constructing the Hindu Temple at Happy Valley.

The site, 1-B, Wong Nei Chong Road, could be included in the Garden area as well.

 

Golf Club Pavilion:

1889, the Hong Kong Golf Club was formed and laid down a nine-hole course, mostly inside the race track.

The golfers built their pavilion immediately opposite the Monument (where the Happy Valley Kaifong headquarters used to be, HKJC Racing Museum nowadays).

They had two greens outside the race-track. Later they objected to extension of the Jockey Club’s holding in that direction.

1918-02-26 by the disastrous fire, rows of two-storeyed matshed stands were all destroyed, also the Golf Club’s pavilion in that area.

1929, stables were built in that section, Stables Bend has been the name of replacement.

 

Incline:

The distance after turning from the original Sports Road and WongNeiChung Road Junction and up to the Black Rock.

1901, the Chairman proposed that:

“the course had been diverted at the Five-furlong post across what used to be a garden on the recreation ground in the direction of the Lee Yuen Sugar Refinery.

A three-quarter-mile starting post was erected, having a straight lead thence to the Black Rock.”

 

Stands:

1846, the first grandstand at the Valley was only matshed structures.

1892, the Jockey Club built new Stands, and thereafter new accommodation became necessary every few years, when the stands were extended, remodelled or completely replaced.

The complex has kept growing higher and larger and offering increasing convenience and comfort.

1896 from part of a panoramic view shows on the left the end of a long stand, with stables below and commodious boxes for owners forming a second storey.

Thirteen large boxes, each with its owner’s flag flying, are shown; there were perhaps as many as fifteen.

Probably the two-storeyed brick building was completed by that time.

1903, on the right is perhaps the stand built already. Later, the gap between them had been filled, and there was a solid grandstand at ground level offering tiered seating.

1929, new stands were completed for members and the public, with a clock tower.

 

Totalisator:

1930 Chairman Gordon Mackie made reference to suggestions for installation of an Electric Totalisator on the course.

But he said that the great additional cost of this was hardly justifiable at that time.

1939, decision to install it was reached and it was not built until after the War.

1951, to cope with the great volume of betting, the long desired Electric Totalisator was installed.

1951-02-03 was the first trail race of the Totalisator.

1951-02-24 Annual Race Meeting began to use electronic calculated betting.

1961, that was the boring of two deep wells, on either side of the Totalisator tower.

These enabled better watering of the track, reducing lameness among the horses.

The first generation of Electric Totalisator (odds display board) on Happy Valley Racecourse then became a new landmark.

 

Village Bend:

From a faded photograph of the Village, for which the Village Bend (the entrance to the straight) was named.

The picture was taken about 1883. It was presented to the Jockey Club by the well-remembered jockey, Mr L. G. Frost.

At the south most part of the course, the Village Bend was the turn into the straight.

This village was a large one, with the newest row of huts standing where the Tramway terminus now is.

1890s, the course around that area was slightly “re-oriented”.

1924, Mr R. J. Paterson [Clerk of the Course] reported that the construction of a permanent fence had begun, for a distance of 900 feet, in front of the houses overlooking the track at the Village Bend.

1925, up to this time the Racecourse was not properly fenced in, and in the Club began attending to this.

1929 the bend was widened.

During the past few days a numbers of coolies have been engaged in removing the mound of earth from the side of the course in the straight.

This will afford about five feet more room from the village bend to the winning post.

Such improvement was in much needed, for it made a lot of difference when twenty or more ponies are coming into the straight practically together.

1937 at the Eleventh Extra, Mr E.S.K. ’s BOBNIAK STAR (Mr S. C. Liang) fell at the Village Bend and had to be destroyed.

 

Yeung Wo Hospital Bend:

1922, The Hospital, known then as The Yeung Wo Nursing Home.

It was organized by a leading group of Chinese medical practitioners and prominent residents of Hong Kong.

“The Happy Retreat”, was built before the hospital, at that time a most popular public amusement centre in Happy Valley.

After renovating the two existing buildings which were included in the purchase.

The Hospital opened its doors in September 1922 with 28 beds.

Later, its name was changed to Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, then, Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital nowadays.

Its location has offer the best view of the racecouse and the straight until partially covered by the new Public Stand.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Happy Valley Racecourse has undergone some dizzying changes since the first race in Hong Kong.

New landmarks emerged and old landmarks passed into history.

Through many biggest stories of memorable races, we could still take a look at how the valley has been improved in some fundamental ways.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

Happy Valley Racecourse itself was not an easy one, the turns at the Northern upper end being fairly sharp.

Besides domestic or expatriate owner-riders, there have been European, Australian or Northern China jockeys shown up.

When those sports-men went to or came down to Hong Kong, many of them admitted that Happy Valley was a challenge.

 

 

EXTERNAL LINK

 

Happy Valley – Etymology – 《RacingMemories.HK》

1846 Happy Valley Races – 《RacingMemories.HK》

SILKYLIGHT vs LIBERTY BAY – 《RacingMemories.HK》

1867-02-20 Challenge Cup – 《RacingMemories.HK》

 

 

Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.

 

 

 


 

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