Say ‘Macau Racing’, and thoughts automatically turn to the annual Grand Prix which transforms the city into the most spectacular Formula Three track in the world. But there’s another sort of racing that takes place in the former Portuguese enclave.
Twice a week, every week, Macau goes gee-gee ga-ga, as the four-storey, 15,000-seat grandstand beside the Macau Jockey Club (MJC) course in Taipa fills up with excited spectators, and some of the finest thoroughbreds on the planet battle it out for line honours.
Looking for a quick trip to Macau? Check out this Macau itinerary.
Macau Horse Racing
Macau horse racing is fast, fabulous, fun and it’s one of the most Macanese entertainments on offer.
As any local aficionado will tell you, rather than just being a sport, it’s practically a way of life.
When and where to see Macau horse racing
Race meetings take place on Friday evening, or during the day (or late afternoon) at weekends.
The Macau Jockey Club also simulcasts races in Hong Kong, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, so it’s a rare day when there’s not something going on here. And the Macau Jockey Club live streaming is available online.
Races take place on either the sand track – which is some 1,400 metres long – or the 1,600-metre turf track.
How many horses run in the races?
Up to 14 horses run in each race, and with as many as 400 horses (drawn mainly from Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, France, the United States and Japan) in training at any one time, there’s certainly no shortage of competition.
Every year sees keen rivalry between owners, trainers and jockeys – it’s as much about prestige as prize money, and for many in Macau, horse racing is their favourite sport.
Almost without exception, the owners are drawn from among the region’s most successful businessmen.
In the early stages of the 2019/2020 season, Frank Wong’s five-year-old bay gelding Sheng Li Superstar helped put him at the top of the prize-money stakes for a while, with a tidy MOP235,000 to his name.
Simply Impeccable, another five-year-old, brought in MOP199,500, which must have brought a healthy gleam to owner Guo Gui Lin’s eyes. And Ho Ken Hon’s nine-year-old bay gelding Oh So Easy scored a respectable MOP187,540.
As is the case for race fans the world over, the anticipation causes as much excitement as the race itself, and the results are stored away in human memory banks to be mulled over and put to profitable use in future.
Who goes to the Macau races?
Part of the enjoyment is that Macau’s horse racing is a very democratic sport.
Owning and training a horse might cost a small fortune, but anyone can get into the public area of the grandstand.
Nobody dresses up very much, so the punter beside you could be a kitchen scullion on a monthly night out or a tycoon wearing old clothes who’s deliberately stepped away from the limelight of the Owners’ and Members’ stands.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Macau, time spent at the races needn’t cost a penny.
You can have a flutter if you want – there’ll be no shortage of neighbourly expert advice – or simply sit back and enjoy the action.
September 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Macau Jockey Club, which was previously the Macau Trotting Club.
However trotting never really caught on, and in 1989 the club converted to flat racing under the auspices of one of the city’s most prominent businessmen, Dr Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
Horse racing had long been popular in nearby Hong Kong, and once it started in earnest in Macau “The Sport of Kings” never really looked back.
Where to stay near the Macau Jockey Club
Anyone planning to make a night of it at the course on Taipa should book a room at the adjacent Macau Roosevelt hotel, most of whose 368 rooms and suites (designed with a certain flair by Icelandic wunderkind Gulla Jónsdóttir ) overlook the course.
There are also grandstand views from the Roosevelt’s restaurants and pool deck, which is garrisoned by cabanas and sun loungers.
The racecourse is a mere five-minute stroll away.
Macau Jockey Club Charity Day
Finally, it’s good to know that there’s another side to racing in Macau: for the past quarter century, the Macau Jockey Club has held a charity day race meeting each year, raising millions of dollars for educational scholarships which are granted to needy students.
The Macau Jockey Club has also sponsored a public clinic, and in 2005, a special “Loving Heart” fund was set up, dedicated to special projects in Macau and Mainland China.
So if you do have a bet at the races in Macau, win or lose, someone is sure to benefit.